Becoming mums: Camille and Tenielle's story

Camille and Tenielle Marshall share the joys and challenges of the first thousand days of their parenting journey, as a two-mum family. 

When you watch Tenielle and Camille Marshall playing with their little boy Finley, you can’t help but smile.
 
They look like naturals. They look just like two happy mums who find parenting ‘easy’.
 
“The best thing about becoming a parent is that you get to experience life through the eyes of someone who finds everything interesting again,” says Tenielle, “the simplest of tasks becomes wondrous.”
 
But as most parents understand, parenting is anything but easy.  
 
“Finley’s at such a fun age, he’s just the happiest kid, exploring the world and figuring out how everything works,” says Camille. 

“But I remember when he was born, I had such high expectations of myself as a parent because I’d worked as a nanny in my college days. I assumed I’d just glide easily into ‘mum life’ and I set the bar high for myself. I quickly learnt, however, that it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Sleep deprivation sucks and I started feeling really anxious.” 

“After the newborn haze wore off I started to relax and those anxious feelings faded, but the early days really are an adjustment,” she says. “My world had changed forever, in the most incredible way, and I was left with so many new feelings. At the time, it was hard to understand it all.”
 
Finley’s now a happy, healthy and cheeky nearly two-year-old who loves trucks, boats, and puddles. His parents absolutely adore him, and while they still worry about him, they’ve learnt there’s no such thing as perfect parenting.
“As a mum you always try to do the right thing, but you can’t be perfect,” says Tenielle. “Some days the washing doesn’t get done, and that’s fine. Dirty clothes aren’t the end of the world.” 
 
Everyone’s experience starting a family is different, and for Camille and Tenielle, their challenges began even before they started trying to conceive. For a start, they’re both women. 

“It’s always been a desire of mine to have a family,” says Camille, “and when I met Tenielle she was actually the first girl I met who had had those aspirations to want to carry and to want to be a parent.”

Cam and Tee engaged the help of specialists and before long the couple discovered Tenielle was pregnant. It was a moment they’ll never forget. 
 
“From the moment of transfer, I knew I was pregnant and I knew I was having a boy,” remembers Tenielle. “One of the first signs was that I suddenly hated the smell of meat, and my breasts were so incredibly tender,” she remembers. 
 
They tried not to get their hopes up and after the two week wait, went and bought every type of pregnancy test they could find. 
 
“We got up early in the morning, got a nice little cup, filled it up, stuck all our pregnancy tests in, and straight away it came up positive!” Camille says. 
 
The women were about to become mums. The First Thousand Days of their parenting journey, from conception to two years old, had begun. 
“It’s just surreal, one moment there’s a life growing inside your stomach, someone you carry around with you 24 hours a day, and then you meet this tiny vulnerable little person and your heart explodes and you just want to nurture and protect them,” says Tenielle. 
 
Looking back at their last two years, the couple says they’ve had to constantly remind themselves to take time out for their own wellbeing. 

“I think parents [tend to] forget to look after themselves,” says Tenielle, “Because your whole focus is on your child. But when Finley goes down to sleep at night, that’s our time for us. We’ll watch the TV, or sit and read books in bed together, and just have time together to try to balance out how hectic the day has been. We’ve started going on date nights again, too,” she says.

“That’s probably been one of the hardest things, learning to stop putting ourselves last.”  

 “Someone said to me once, that if you’re questioning whether you’ve got the balance right, you’ve probably got it pretty right,” says Camille. “Because if you’re questioning it, it means you’re trying. And the most important thing is that you’re trying.”

Camille and Tenielle took out family health cover with Bupa, which gave them peace of mind during an exciting and emotional time.

“One of the main things that was important to us was pregnancy cover, and being in the same room with each other when Finley was born,” says Camille. 

“Breastfeeding wasn’t as easy as I had hoped,” says Tenielle, “Finley wouldn’t latch properly until the third day, but we had 24-hour support in hospital for five days. For us, those five days in hospital together were worth a whole year of membership.”

"Breastfeeding wasn’t as easy as I had hoped, Finley wouldn’t latch properly until the third day, but we had 24-hour support in hospital for five days."

As a two-mum couple, Camille and Tenielle say there have been a few tough questions.

“We had one instance where someone just didn’t understand that Finley had two mums. He kept asking, ‘who’s the mum, who’s the mum?’ ‘Oh we both are,’ ‘No but who’s the REAL mum?’

“He’s both of ours,” says Tenielle. “There’s more to parenting than just biology. I just had to spell it out, that sometimes a person has a mum and a dad and they live together, and other times they have two mums and they live together too. That seemed to do the trick!”
 
Pushing the odd quizzical remarks aside, they’ve been surrounded by love and support.
 
“One thing I wasn’t prepared for is the sisterhood. I didn’t realise how many supportive and wonderful mums would come in to our lives to share this journey. I also didn’t realise how much stuff you need just to leave the house, even if it’s just for half an hour!”
 
“At the end of the day the most important thing for us is that Finley’s happy. And not just ‘pretend happy’, but happy on the inside,” says Tenielle.
 
“We just feel so lucky to have him; it wasn’t easy and it took a lot of planning… but gosh we have it lucky…” says Camille.
 
While the couple is currently enjoying having a little more time to themselves, one day they’d love to add to their family, and Camille hopes to carry next. You can follow the family’s blog at www.herandi.com.au

Tee and Cam's tips for new parents

  • Find a medical professional who is supportive of you and your wishes. I always felt informed and safe which was important during such an overwhelming time. 
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect, especially during those first few months. Just enjoy it, because it really does go so quickly.
  • Find a mothers group that supports and encourages you, I can’t explain how important it was to be told that I was doing a great job, and having someone to call if I ever needed.
  • Everyone will try to give you advice, even if you’re at the grocery store surrounded by strangers. Take it all with a grain of salt because in the end, you know what’s right for you and your family. But don’t be afraid to ask for help if you do need it!

You can find more resources, stories and tools to help support you through the First Thousand Days of your parenting journey here.

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