On the last day of my thirties, a decade I was glad to leave behind, I got on a plane and flew to Melbourne with Sean. I spent the last night of my thirties eating tapas at Movida and watching my first Broadway musical ‘The Producers’ (yes I realise I wasn’t seeing it on Broadway, what can you do?). We completely loved it. The energy! The lights! The music! All  of it surpassed what I expected of a show that to me sounded like something to try rather than something we’d definitely enjoy. How wrong I was. A funny, high energy, altogether impressive experience under the spire of the State Theatre.


It was a nice way to see out the decade. The long, difficult decade.

I spent most of my thirties in pursuit of motherhood and we can all see where that got me. Us. Childless.

Would I do it again if I had my time over? Probably. You can’t change the past and at the time you’re living through the hardship, you are doing it with a deep, powerful  hope in your heart that it will work out. Everywhere around you couples are welcoming their first, second, third happy bundles and you’re standing there with empty arms and an unforgiving uterus.

A spare room that deep down you fear will never become a nursery.

And there were miscarriages. Losses I will carry with me forever, scars and memories.

There was no way to know at the time that it wouldn’t work out. There were no guarantees, no magic charms to give us what we longed for.

But there were lessons. There were gifts. They come in the form of the charming little people who are part of our lives now, just not born of us. We are grateful and we are willing and able to be loving adults in the lives of our nieces and nephew – we are adults who bring with us, amongst other things, a decade of longing and hope which only serves to inform our humanity and our capacity to live and to love.

It was with this knowledge that I greeted the milestone of my 40th birthday, in the city of my birth, our second city, Melbourne. And lest you think I spent most of it staring glumly into glasses of wine mulling over my empty uterus and childless life, fear not. I went to Melbourne to eat, drink and be merry and that’s exactly what I did. Ironically, this was easier without the ‘burden’ of children. Bittersweet irony, really.

Portrait of a happy pub knitter. #melbourne #festivalofhelen

I turned 40 in the style I hoped for: eating, drinking and knitting my way around some great restaurants, cafes and pubs.

me in melbourne

We saw the excellent and highly informative Napolean exhibition the National Gallery of Victoria.


And we ate, on the night of my birthday at the stunning, top rated Attica Restaurant, our first experience of Molecular Gastronomy, which was nowhere near as intimidating or wanky as I feared it might be. It was in every way a night to remember, and to me, far more satisfying than a big, emotionally draining party. As an introvert I’m much better at a small, quiet dinner than a big event.

Melbourne. Sunday morning. Swanston street.

And what would a trip away be for me without at least a photo of knitting and a glass of wine? This one was taken at lunch on our last day, where we sat in a lane way Italian cafe and ate pasta and drank wine and farewelled, with a little sadness, our lovely little holiday where we’d done all the things we hoped and from which I was returning a 40 year old woman.

As if there was ever any question what the My Obsession #julyphotoaday subject would be.

It was everything I wanted it to be.



33 thoughts on “40

  1. Brought a tear to my eye too Helen. Glad you had a wonderful birthday and trip to Melbourne. You are the best auntie and uncle ever. Jenny

  2. Glad you had a wonderful birthday Helen, your post brought tears to my eyes. Your outlook is a lesson to us all. Your birthday sounds perfect, Melbourne is a wonderful place, my home town and I love it. Always something to do or see.
    Your posts bring me a lot of joy having recently taken up knitting again and I find your articles inspirational, tried one of the hats from a previous post. Alice is a sweetie, hope we see more of her.

  3. (I noticed your beautiful blue tights as well!) Each decade brings its own losses and triumphs. Being able to put it all in perspective helps. Turning 40 didn’t seem to effect me as much as turning 50. Starting a new decade feels so momentous. I am learning that I like myself better as I get older, I speak my mind more often and am more thoughful.

    So, Happy Birthday! I hope your 40’s brings you peace and happiness and more love.

  4. Happy, happy birthday. Talking to a friend just this week we both decided that good or bad, we’d pretty much make the same choices in our lives. Life is never what you expect it will be, and sometimes it is very hard and even cruel. To be able to continue on living a life that is different, but still has relevance and worth, is no mean feat.

  5. What a truly heartfelt post which made me tear up just reading it. You and Sean are possibly the best auntie and uncle to have as I am sure you love your nieces and nephew just like they are your very own. Happy 40th and I hope the next decade brings you much joy and happiness. You should have visited a week later and gone to the Bendigo Show!

  6. Happy birthday! Sounds like a perfectly lovely, reflective birthday. 40 was the beginning of the most productive, fun, and interesting time of my life, and I hope it is for you, too.

  7. Happy, happy birthday, Bells! And welcome to the 40s! It isn’t so bad here – in fact, it’s easier in a lot of ways, more comfortable, with fewer worries and struggles. Or different ones, anyway. I hope yours are wonderful, with everything you deserve. I’m so glad you had a nice time in Melbourne – it sounds perfect.

  8. Oh, the happiest of Happy Birthdays, Bells! I loved my 40s and would do them again in a heartbeat. I’m just over the threshold of my 60s and they’re looking pretty good too. My 50s are a blur; too many changes to keep track of but I survived.

  9. 40 years seems like a good start to a long and happy life. I hope that this next decade is a little gentler than the previous one. Many happy returns, and many many more birthdays to you.

  10. I think if you want something as bad as you wanted a child of your own, then the regret you would have for not trying all avenues would no doubt increase the pain of not achieving the desired outcome. So I hope you never regret any decisions you made in that regard, because, for what it’s worth, I think you did all the right things, and it is one of the sadnesses of my life that it didn’t work out for you both in the way you wanted.

    I’m so glad you had a fabulous time in Melbourne, such a great place to visit and the perfect way to change decades. Not that I’ve been in this decade for that long, but being 40 is pretty good really!

    Happy happy birthday lovey xx

  11. what a wonderful reflection and account of this occasion, Bells – beautifully written. the last decade has thrown some challenges, but here you are.

    I so enjoyed seeing your posts and photos each day of your birthday journey, it really looked like you had the most marvelous time.

    much love to you, you gorgeous 40yo woman, you ❤

  12. (I think WordPress is done fighting with me now!) Happy Birthday! I’m glad you could celebrate it the way you’d planned–I remember you mentioning your 40th birthday plans what, six months ago? And those tights are awfully cute.

  13. Oh what a wonderful post! I’m so glad Melbourne was everything you needed it to be. And those little people in your life are so much richer for having you around. Happy Birthday!

  14. What a lovely way to bring in your 40th.. Happy Birthday 🙂 We’re in a similar situation and enjoy spoiling our nieces and nephew 🙂

  15. Fabulous post Helen – I’ve already wished you happy birthday at least twice, but this does sound happy indeed. Treasuring where you are now is the secret of happiness and I am sure Sean is no small help in that.

    Happy birthday lovely woman xxxx

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