Rocky & Melisa
Posted on 26 November 2018
Rocky & Melisa by Madeline Johnson
At last the sky had opened up across Sydney and the day of our shoot was met with torrential rain. Melisa and I meet in passing on the road outside her beachside abode as we both quickly make our way indoors to escape the skies relentless release. Her, with hot cocoa in hand to accomodate my boys, (how kind?!l) and myself, camera on one shoulder, baby nestled into the other.
As we enter the front door she turns to welcome us warmly and I’m immediately drawn to a sweet and soulful peace that preludes her as she goes about making my tribe feel at home in her home. The space is simple and considered, each item selected thoughtfully with the intention of creating a nest to nurture their growing family.
There is a purity to the pleasure of motherhood with Melisa, and it’s a joy to observe her mothering Rocky as we shoot amidst their morning routine. Rocky navigates the space with confidence, eyes wide as she wanders about the room, curiously eyeing off the newcomers. Their mother daughter bond is undeniable as she circles back to her mother’s side, finding safety in her arms and they both break into wide, joyful smiles often, happy to have each other for company.
Mel is engaged and meditative in her conversation as we cover topics from relationships and family dynamic, to the fortunes and challenges of being a working mother, and our shared penchant for Australian botanicals. I'm astounded and inspired by her calm and grounded spirit despite the deep pain and adversity she has experienced in her life. As we shoot our final image set, Rocky peacefully drifts off to sleep in the next room. Mel expresses her gratitude for including her story, but we are the lucky ones to be invited in.
What is your background and have you always lived on Sydney's Northern Beaches?
My background is Thai/Indian/Chinese (mother’s side) and Australian/Scottish (father’s side).
Shortly before I was born they packed up their lives and relocated from Thailand back to Newcastle with my brother and sister. It was important to them that I have access to quality education and the various opportunities that accompany growing up in a first world country, particularly given my mother was the oldest of nine and forced to leave school at a very young age to work as the breadwinner to support her family.
After my father died when I was four my mother raised myself, sister and brother on her own during a time where racism was still quite prominent. This has a great influence on my life and will no doubt shape the ways in which I guide Rocky through life.
Fast forward to 2006 when I met my now husband Mitchel. After a few months of dating a work opportunity presented itself and with the then recent passing of my brother I needed a change. I deferred uni - my final semester of psychology and with no hesitation we made our way to Sydney. We landed in the Northern Beaches as it felt the most like Merewether which is where Mitchel was born and raised.
After years of working in fashion retail through my teens I naturally transitioned into fashion wholesale. Shortly before Rocky turned one I ended my 7 year tenure at bassike so I could slow down and focus on family and after some solos down time I naturally fell into consulting which works allows me to remain creative whilst caring for Rocky at the same time.
Can you tell us a little about your transition to motherhood?
I always wanted to be a mother. After experiencing a challenging and strained relationship with my own mother and from enduring a decade of sexual abuse from a family friend, creating my own tribe was incredibly important to me for so many reasons.
We started trying for Rocky in my late twenties and after multiple miscarriages, and preparing for a walk down the IVF road we fell pregnant with her naturally. Unfortunately I was part of the 2% of unlucky women who experienced hyperemesis gravadium my entire pregnancy and so spent most of my nine months in and out of hospital on fluids and a cocktail of medications to keep me functioning.
Motherhood itself feels like second nature and I know the next time around it will be even better, if that’s even possible.
A favourite motherhood moment?
Giving birth to Rocky was incredible. I was so lucky to be able to experience a fast, natural, and drug free water birth.
When I pulled her up and onto my chest she starred up at me in silence with her deep and soulful eyes. The connection was beyond anything I have ever experienced and a moment I will cherish for all of my eternity.
Some thoughts on style, what matters to you when it comes to style?
My style philosophy centres around wearing beautifully made clothing in natural fabrications.
My wardrobe hasn’t changed since becoming a mother, i continue to gravitate to pieces that are understated, tailored, subtly androgynous with a strong Japanese influence.
Your hopes for Rocky?
To cultivate gratitude. To appreciate the world around her. To embrace friendships with people unlike herself.
You mentioned you were a buddhist. Are you currently practicing and if so, how do include your practice alongside motherhood?
Buddhism has shaped every facet of my life and is deeply rooted in every belief i hold and every decision I make. I live by the notion of the four noble truths which refer to suffering, its origin, cessation and path. Motherhood pushes women into a new kind of self sufficiency. To mother our children happily and wisely lies in our ability to develop inner resources to nourish and replenish ourselves. As mothers we have an intimate understanding of of the two pillars of Buddhism - that suffering is life and that we can experience a truer love. I try to focus on living my truth and hope this translates to Rocky.
How do you relax?
I indulge in reflexology.
Do you have any family traditions you would like to pass on? Any family traditions you have started?
Before Rocky was born I volunteered each weekend at a local aged care facility, it was incredibly humbling, fulfilling and gave me pure happiness. My mother and mother in law are also both strong advocates for charity work and participate in volunteering on a weekly basis. I would love for Rocky to share in that sense of empathy and desire to selflessly give back in any capacity she can.
What are you dreaming about right now?