I could get used to this.

I wake up rested, don’t drop from exhaustion at 1, 2 or even 3pm each day and I am getting things done, like actually folding the clean laundry. Did you see that I slipped in the fact that the laundry is clean, like that is no big deal?????

I have stayed up past 10pm night after night and even watched a little TV with the family instead of just trying to keep my eyes open in my bed past 8.

Looking back on the last few years, I realise that I have been half asleep when I was awake. The brain fog and physical state of tired were beyond compare. I always just assumed that adult humanity felt this way because life is a hard slog sometimes. Little did I know how much I was affected by low iron and vitamin D levels until I had an iron infusion and a couple of weeks of high dose supplementation in me. There is really no better way to describe it except to say that I feel brighter. My mind is clear and my heart is happier.

On top of the medication I needed, twice a week I am taking pilates classes at the new Authentic Pilates Melbourne studio in Hampton. When Michaela inquired about my rates for photography, I sent a quote for my full day rate and without even waiting for a response, offered to do the brand imagery in trade. Now, I am not a gym goer. I hated yoga classes and I run because it is not something I need to schedule. I have no idea what it was that made me suggest a trade, but I must have sensed that I needed this training. If I had been paid in cash, there is no way I would have prioritised my health by reinvesting the money into pilates classes. Oh, how I would have missed out had that been the case. I am now obsessed with going to the studio to train with Michaela twice a week. I am feeling stronger and taller and more fit each time. Right before my surgery, I swear I saw an ab where I have not seen abs since early 2004! If you have ever considered a pilates class, or even if you have never given it a thought, I would encourage you to try. Next week I might be taking a class alongside a man in his 70s. Anyone can do this.

It is life, so I guess there has to be a down to my beautiful up… Maybe the reason I suddenly got better is so I am now able to take on just how dark things had gotten for Clover. Could that be why I have been granted this reprieve from my own pain? Clover needs us now to help her through her days because she is absolutely done with feeling so hurt and sad. Chronic pain is a virtually invisible illness that people brush off way to quickly. Yesterday we found one of the culprits!!!! Fructose. As simple as her body being unable to absorb fructose has caused all this terrible pain. We are thrilled to have something we can fix, but are overwhelmed with the process. Reading labels isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Sugar is in everything, but what kind of sugar is it? I don’t think she is pleased with the idea of just surviving on plain rice while I get my mom sh*t together! Looking to get all the great tips and apps and web resources together in posts here soon. Please link me up with anything that has worked for you!!!!!!!

I shall be sharing here what we are doing not just to document it for others in the same situation, but to help people see through the happy facade those of us who are living with chronic disorders constructed for society. We smile, we go to the movies and we also sit at home and cry just hoping for the day that we can feel normal again. I have figured out what was causing my issues. We have named Clover’s zebra and now I am laser focused on getting my baby girl better.

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  • Nuala - Hi Rachel
    Great news about your health. I’m thinking of trying Pilates (I’ve done a bit through my Physio) after being plagued with physical injury for the last couple of years. Maybe I’ll try Authentic Pilates. Anyway, just wondering if you’d considered getting the advice of a nutritionist to guide you through a low FODMAP diet for Clover. Or consider the Monash University (they’re the ones who devised the low FODMAP diet) Low FODMAP app available on the App Store? I know a couple of people who have had incredible results with it and are now pain-free! I know one woman who was plagued with chronic pain for years and with the help of a nutritionist following low FODMAP, and a process of elimination, found the culprit to be onions!
    All the best on your journey xReplyCancel

  • Robin - Wow! So glad for both of you to start naming zebras and fighting back! Do they think that is the entirety of Clover’s issue or just a component? Or will you not know until you have treated her for some time? Regardless, glad you were persistent and got somewhere with it all.ReplyCancel

    • sesame - Probably the source of the pain, but she also has parasites so that is probably the cause of the elevated eosinophils!ReplyCancel

  • Andrea - So this is a big thing for Clover because practically everything she eats contains fructose.
    Well I am not sure if this will help http://www.livestrong.com/article/263938-vegetables-fruits-that-contain-fructose/ it said the lower the fructose the safer for fructose intolerant people, I suppose its down to what works for some might not work for others.
    At least you know whats made her unwell poor Poppet, lets hope you and her dietician can work together on this HUGs xxxReplyCancel

  • FourInchHeels - I share Clover’s pain! I’m also unable to process fructose, and spent the better part of a decade hurting with no idea why.

    The university who did the original FODMAP research put out an app that’s been a lifesaver – search Monash University Low FODMAP Diet. They break down each food with a red/yellow/green light, and identify which sugar forms it has in what level. Such a game changer.

    I spent the first six months after diagnosis obsessively reading Pinterest (fodmap recipes are more common than I thought!), and checking every food through the FODMAP app. It’s a steep learning curve, but gets easier with time.ReplyCancel

    • sesame - I had not thought of looking on Pinterest for recipes! Aren’t you clever. Off to create a new Pinterest board! Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca flisher - Rachel, I have been fructose intolerant all my 38 years but only worked out what the cause was about 5 years ago. Just something to brighten your day… after cutting out all fructose and letting my gut and insides heal, I am be able to tolerate small amounts of fructose again without a problem. Do you have the monash university FODMAP app? It’s very helpful. Stick to Whole Foods and check with the app which fruits and vegies are low fructose.ReplyCancel

    • sesame - Thank you!!!! Whole foods is the key at this point…otherwise it is too easy to slip up!ReplyCancel

Yesterday I turned down my street and was greeted by a perfect pink camellia lying upright in the middle of the road. It looked almost as if someone had carefully placed it there, floating in a circle of green leaves on the black road glossy with the recent rain.

“Hi Dad.” I whispered aloud to myself in the car. “What are you doing here?”
See, I take random camellias as a sign. My dad loved them and in turn I grew up in a home surrounded by forests full of them. They adorned my father’s coffin in 1999 and I carried a bunch of them as my wedding bouquet in 2004.
Camellias are special to our family. Despite my non-religious sensibilities, I do occasionally see them as a little message from what I don’t know for sure does or does not exist.
I had not experienced a sign for a long time until yesterday. It was 11:30am in Melbourne. What I certainly could not know was that on the other side of the world my nephew Ian was spending his last two hours or so on this earth.

As word of my nephew’s sudden death finally reached me at midnight, I could only react with shock and sadness. I lay awake for a while fixated on the worry that he was alone at the time of his accident. I had forgotten about the camellia until this morning and I can only hope that my dad dropped it on his way to meet Ian. That Ian was not alone in the end in a way that is not for us to understand yet.

I know these next images are from a childhood long ago lived up, but we adults are simply people grown around the children we were.

You always called me aunt Rachel like it was a very special title that deserved respect, not just because I was born the sister of your dad. Even when you towered over me as a grown man, you still called me aunt Rachel. I never once doubted that you loved your aunt Rachel and kid, aunt Rachel loved you.

You were really one of a kind and while I am pretty sure you did not find life easy, with every struggle you always had a smile. An absolutely glorious smile. That smile got you out of a lot of trouble. Probably more often that I would want to know. Eternally cheeky, you were a challenge to babysit… Truly one of those spirited children they write books about how to raise. But you were you. Even when people wanted you to be someone else, even when you were trying to figure out who you were meant to be… you were you. I was pretty sure that you grew that characteristic into a strength perfected over your short twenty four years. Shit, it is almost your birthday. You did not even make a quarter of a century. That is so unfair.

I see a little bit of you in my own son…the final grandchild. I was excited for my kids to have so many cousins to look up to even if they were far away. I will make sure my kids never forget you. They fell in love with “cousin Ian” last year in the brief amount of time they had with you. We all did. No matter how long that time was, it was too short and we all loved you. You gave so much. You lived like you knew.

This is such a strange way to say goodbye, but it is all I have. I never thought about how I would write this, it just came pouring out. These are certainly not the most lovely and ordered words that I have written, but I expected you to outlive me, not to leave us all behind. There is no time for rewrites; I already regret the things I did not say. We will miss you forever. Our family set is broken. The grandchildren eleven is now just ten. Even someday when time mends this gaping hole in our hearts, it will be sore and scarred. The phantom pain stinging sadly of something big and important that is gone.

I hope there is another side to this life and that you were not alone. And I hope that if there is another side, when it comes my time to cross through, you will be there with that gorgeous smile. I really want to believe that I will see it again.

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  • Nancy - tears streaming down my face, such beautiful heartfelt words. sending hugs dear rachel xxReplyCancel

  • Amelia - Sending my love to you and your family, Rachel. You may think what you’ve written is not perfect, but they are honest and true and that is even better than perfect. My heart aches for your sudden loss, and thank you for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Christine - Oh, Rachel. What beautiful love and a tragic loss. My heart goes out to all of you. Wishing you comfort & grace in the time ahead.ReplyCancel

  • Karan - There’s no doubt Ian loved his aunt Rachel. And, that aunt Rachel and the family loved Ian with the whole of their hearts. I hope that this love will give you all strength as you navigate the sadness ahead. Much love.xReplyCancel

  • Angela - I am sorry for your pain. It certainly does not seem right or fair to lose someone so loved and so young. I am sure your dad was waiting for him as one day they will wait for you.ReplyCancel

  • Lucy - Oh Rachel – I can’t even express how incredibly sorry I feel for you and your family. Your nephew sounds like such an amazing person – taken far, far too soon. Sending all my love to you. XxxxReplyCancel

  • Sharlene - Oh, Rachel. I’m so sorry for your loss. This hit so close to home, as your nephew would be so close in age to my youngest sister – 25 this month. I just can’t even imagine.
    When my grandpa was sick in hospital with cancer, in what we knew were possibly his last few days with us, my Aunty asked him whether he was looking forward to seeing his brothers who had passed before him, to which he replied “Oh, I’ve already seen them.” I am certain that your nephew wasn’t alone. Even though it doesn’t dull the pain of your loss, I’m glad you can take some small comfort from that sign from your dad 💙ReplyCancel

  • David - Thank you for those beautiful thoughts, Aunt Rachel. I am devastated, but I have tried to find comfort thinking of him with his grandaddies. I will live every last day in honor of Ian.ReplyCancel

  • Robin Devine - Rachel, thank you. I love this. I love you and I love and miss Ian. We are in shock.ReplyCancel

  • Whitney Dixon - I shared this for some of my friends that are hurting. David is my friend….Traci and I have been best friends since high school….Ian’s passing has been heart wrenching…they live down the street and we see them a lot…. I wish I had known Ian better and I hope to meet you one day….Your words were perfectly beautiful. I cried my eyes out as I read it. Thank you for sharing such a personal thing with us🙏💔👏❤️👍ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey Applegate - He sounds like an amazing young man. Such a horrible and sudden loss for your family. Your words were beautiful. My love and prayers to you and your family during this tragic time.ReplyCancel

  • Keating Hurd - With tears streaming down my face, I pray for you all. Words cannot express the sadness. I had a crush on him just threw pictures because he looked just like the young man I had a crush on so many years ago. Please know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers.ReplyCancel

  • Barbara Stafford - As I read this the tears started flowing as they are now. He was a very special man with a heart of gold. Loved life children and adventures. He is now an angel looking above us, and wouldn’t want us crying he would want us to stay strong be positive we will see him again. And celebrate his life not be depressed. My love thoughts and prayers are with you, Mr David Devine, Mrs. Robin Devin’s, kellam Devin’s, your entire family and All his friends. He was and still is a very very loved soul💗💗💗💗💗💗ReplyCancel

  • Bree - I’m so so sorry for your loss and my thoughts are with you and your family. I do believe your dad was there to greet your nephew who sounds like he was a wonderful young man in your beautiful, honest, heart-wrenching tribute. I was moved to tears.ReplyCancel

  • Robin - I’m so very sorry. That just sucks.ReplyCancel

  • Tess - Rachel- how could you find words at all? I can’t find words to say how beautiful this was to read …but the pain you and your family feel… words can’t express that grief. My son isn’t much older than Ian and the heartbreak must be unfathomable. My heart goes out to you and the kids and your brother and family. What an absolutely gorgeous young man- his soul really does shine through in those smiles. All my love. XoReplyCancel

The morning after my surgery, I caught a glimpse on the news of the tragedy unfolding across the world in Manchester. Still groggy and in increasing pain, I headed home to begin recovering in my own bed. After a little nap I woke to messages on nearly every social channel that Gemma’s photo was circulating as one of the missing children after the bombing. There she was on the front page of The Daily Mail and in a collage retweeted over 20,000 times despite being safe and sound at high school in Australia.

I shared with my Facebook page that she was fine and that our hearts were with the real victims. News agencies picked that up and I was then fielding requests for interviews from everyone… I politely declined as I felt word of the misinformation was out and it was time to focus on the people who needed comfort and help. 

Of course then I was chastised for my reckless parenting decision and or naivety in allowing my children to be pictured online in the first place. These trolls couching their disdainful and arrogant opinion as concern is nothing new to me. And I stand firm in my resolve that we as parents (because this is a family decision) are doing nothing to put our children in anymore harm’s way than we were to allow Gemma to attend her first concert last March. Living in public and allowing our children to be seen as they live their full lives is not negligence. Just as those who go out in public and are lost to the deliberate act of an evil person, I feel like the blame for the taking of a photo that does not belong to you is solely at the feet of the person doing the wrong thing. We don’t live our life making decisions based on fear. If your level of comfort differs from ours, we respect your decision for your family and will not shame you for it. In fact, your decision for your family’s safety has no impact on my life…just as your opinion of my parenting. 

People asked how Gemma felt about the incident and she said “I am not embarrassed. I didn’t do anything wrong. Some people share photos and some are more private. Who cares about that, can’t we focus on the people who actually lost loved ones?”

So trolls, I’m pretty confident that I am raising good human beings who don’t feel ashamed for living their lives and don’t force their opinions on others. They are not in any more danger for having a curated presence online than if they didn’t.

And while all this was happening, I was trying to recover from abdominal surgery and not think about the pathology results pending from the biopsies taken. But as I safely delivered my children to school this morning with their homemade lunches containing fruit, vegetables and a treat (omg, I’m so bloody RECKLESS AT PARENTING) I got the call. 


Not cancer. And I giggled and felt like dancing the rest of the way and Kieran asked why I was so happy. I told him and both he and Clover asked, “You could have had cancer? You were worried?” With that I knew that I protect my children just fine, thankyouverymuch.

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  • Angela - Oh Rachel…I knew about the photo part but I did not know about your surgery part. So so glad the news is good. I hope recovery is quick and quiet.ReplyCancel

  • Bree - Much love your way for a quick recovery – glad you got good news!ReplyCancel

It has been a while since I last posted. I didn’t mean to take a hiatus, but in the face of a few different factors I have taken time off from this space. Overwhelmed with the demands of adulting lately, I kind of began to see my blog as just one more creature who needed something from me. Since the humans and animals under my care actually depend on me for their mortal survival, this was one thing I could ignore. 

Look SesameEllis dot com
Recently I was speaking with someone who is beginning a journey of sharing online in conjunction with marketing her new business and it got me thinking about why I started sharing my stories and what the writing and photography involved meant to me. “How was it so easy for me to share so openly?”, she asked. The truth is multifaceted, but comes down to these top two things; I share to feel less alone and I share so that someone who is searching and identifies with my experience feels less alone. This is my connection to a wider world. Visual storytelling has been my lifeline through the isolation of post natal depression and new motherhood right on through the changing landscape of photography as a profession. I guess I started just to see if anyone out there could actually hear me when I was silently losing my mind in the newborn days of 2004, but I continue because people not only heard me, but needed to be heard too. 

In the last couple of years a business grew up around blogs and demanded statistics beyond the emotion. Numbers killed the heart of blogging for me, but not the underlying need to share experiences. When numbers or math is involved in my life, I find other things to do… like napping. It has been the same since childhood. 

Oh how I have napped over the last few years though. No, actually sleeping during the day not poetically unconscious to life. For the last year or two, I have been utterly exhausted. Despite getting into bed at 8 or 8:30 every night and sleeping until my alarm went off at 7am, I woke up tired. Working from home some days meant a guilt ridden nap simply because I couldn’t function without it. Even after three coffees. But we are moms. Moms get tired. The internet is filled with memes about how tired we are.

So I attributed it all to the twins not sleeping well and coming for me to comfort them nearly nightly for eight years plus the emotional fatigue of navigating the transition to high school with a tween girl. Bigger kid, bigger problems. I feel like the patron saint for all things lost, broken or hurt. 

Except for when it came to me because each month (like clockwork still, I mean, where is menopause when you need it?) I was in pain. Lunches still got made, homework found and I tried to keep smiling. Then I started missing out on fun things like a friend’s 40th and other gatherings as I was pinned to the couch under a useless heating pad and a giant black cloud.

I finally took one of my lunch hour nap sessions and got to the GP. Guess what? All that sleeping and exhaustion? Apparently not normal. None of it. Many tests and one absolutely amazing specialist later and I am close to having the answers. My iron and vitamin D levels were both abysmal which makes sense in light of the monthly massacre. But there was another test that said something might be going on in my womb. They have found endometrial hyperplasia which carries a higher cancer risk than normal. And this is why I am sharing. I know I am not alone and there might be someone out there searching the web tonight to see if they are “crazy” to go to the doctor for painful periods and being tired. 

Tomorrow I am heading into the hospital to have surgery. Fingers crossed that they rule out cancer, fix my energy levels with an iron infusion and figure out a simple reason for my pain. Like mental health issues, nobody wants to talk about “lady problems.” I might as well. It just might be what someone needs to hear.

I’m back and ready to stop hibernating! I’ve got a half marathon to train for.

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  • Patricia - Dear Rachel, here’s wishing you all the best for your surgery and a quick recovery. I found about your work ten years ago on Flickr, while my youngest daughter was fighting a nephroblastoma at the tender age of 18 months. You inspired me to go get a dSLR, learn photography and document the lives of my children “beyond snapshots”. Sending happy thoughts and caring wishes on your way from Germany, warmly, PatriciaReplyCancel

  • Jen - Rachel — I can totally relate to the tiredness. For the past few years I’ve had to go in bi-annually for IV iron infusions. It really helps, in fact I’m going in on Tuesday for another one and can hardly wait to get “pumped” up. Good luck with the surgery!ReplyCancel

    • sesame - I’m hoping for this to be my only one as the surgery should fix the underlying cause! Hope your infusion gets you going again!ReplyCancel

  • se7en - Oh you poor poor thing, hope you are feeling so much better really soon. Hope your surgery goes well… sending love.ReplyCancel

  • Gabbie Smith - Hi Rach,

    Iron deficiency was the answer to my fatigue. Weekly shots in the butt brought me back to life, but it’s not the only answer.
    More and more lately, I find myself stopping to smell the roses – a necessity if going to see old age. Being a little more what us mums would consider selfish, time to ourselves, is a gift we need to give ourselves. Because we deserve it.

    Take care of yourself. If I was in Melbourne, I’d be over with chicken soup. But since I’m not, please accept this virtual hug.

    Gab xReplyCancel

  • suzanne - Best of luck, and love your stories and images. Wonderful and so on point to how I have been feeling. Thank you for sharing your journey.ReplyCancel

    • sesame - Thank you so much. Take good care of you!ReplyCancel

  • Bree - I missed this post before, so I’m already glad to know cancer was ruled out, but I still wanted to comment and thank you for sharing. I’m so glad you’re so close to answers and hope your energy springs back soon!ReplyCancel

Still looking for zebras, but narrowing down the direction from which they are running at us. We are also now secretly hoping they are unicorns or at the very least, cute ponies.

primary school aged girl in a doctors waiting room

Clover is now under the care of a paediatrician as well as a paediatric gastroenterologist so somewhere in all of those degrees, one would think they would find her some relief!

The new doctor has ordered a lot of different tests to see if there are not some rare, but treatable things causing Clover’s near daily distress. She is still tracking along the 25th percentile for height and weight, so while she is super tiny, that is not a worry. Her hand is actually too small to properly spin the fidget spinner Kieran bought for her. When she holds it between her thumb and finger, the edges bump into her hand so it can’t rotate.

She just spins it on her knee instead. This kid can pivot problems like a champ. She even managed to run 2 kilometres in her school cross country event. To say that I am proud seeing the twins push themselves like they are at the moment is an understatement.

Our next appointment is in four weeks just to give all the tests time to be completed and results returned.

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  • Robin - Hoping you find something treatable!!!ReplyCancel

  • Kaitlin - As someone who spent years looking for her own zebras, I wish you so much luck on this round of tests.ReplyCancel

    • sesame - Thank you. I hope you have your zebras all under control.ReplyCancel