Melbourne: A Four-Parts Story

Iqbal Rahmadhan
9 min readJan 18, 2023

We have just returned from Melbourne after a year. Bringing nothing but a number of emotions that redefine me and my wife. In this story I will tell you about our journey in four chapters: 1) the birth, 2) the study and the work, 3) the city, and in the end 4) the legacy.

Flagstaff Garden. (Photo by Aisah)

Part 1: The birth

Although the main reason my wife and I settled in Melbourne was because my wife was continuing her studies at the University of Melbourne, Auster and everything that came with her presence took top priority over anything else, in this story you can see the the other parts will link to her presence.

She was born three months after our arrival, it was the happiest moment we’ve ever had. At the time when we alone and away from our parents, we realized there was still plenty of thing to learn and often questioned whether we could be good parents for her. I am often warned by friends that this will not be easy and I will really need support from my family. We were warned and we also thought about it, but many things prevented us from bringing our family here. So there was no other option but to face it and keep learning new things.

The day when Auster came to our life. (Photo by Aisah)

One thing we are grateful for is the good service from the midwives and nurses here. It is they who teach us various ways from bathing, changing diapers, indication of the color of feces, and others. As new parents it’s easy for us to panic over situations and occasionally Auster seems to play a prank on us, but they always try to keep us calm.

When is the hardest time? I could say the first two or three weeks where we were still getting used to waking up in the middle of the night and understanding the meaning of every Auster cry. There’s always a debugging session to know what’s wrong, at first I think we’ve been trained for that at work but it’s still hard haha.

After these two or three weeks, we started to adapt and had to try to live normally. My wife started back into the lab and I continued working. My manager reminds me that having a baby we will always think that this point is the biggest challenge, even though every month and year we will find different and more difficult challenges.

But I have to be honest that it all paid off when we saw every milestone that Auster achieved: the first smile, the first rolling, crawling, first solid food and other amazing moments.

Part 2: The work and the study

As I said in the previous part, taking care Auster is a priority which means we have to adapt our activities to suit it and fortunately we are in places that support this plan.

Let’s start from my workplace. I am a person who really feels the benefits of WFH or remote work, as my former co-worker said in his LinekdIn post “WFH is the greatest human invention ever”. My wife and I devised a strategy so we could take turns taking care of Auster. In order for this to work, we decided for me to continue working remotely to Indonesia. That way I take advantage of the time difference (3–4 hours) to be able to focus on Auster or do the tasks myself, while for some meetings I arrange the schedule after Aisah comes home from the lab.

Of course not all meetings can be arranged like that, sometimes I still have to attend meetings while carrying and breastfeeding Auster from a bottle. If my camera was open, she will be the center of attention and I am afraid we cannot remember the discussion. She once attended a backlog grooming session with my team, and people brought toys and dolls for her, it was a nice session.

All in all, I am very grateful that I have manager (and former manager) and team mate that understand our situation and always support me to deliver the work on time.

Screenshot of a backlog grooming session with toys and dolls. (Image by Wai Tsun)

The other bigger part of the plan is Aisah’s research and study. I am not going to lie that doing a master degree while having a child is not an easy job. She often find herself to choose between the experiment or go home to take care the baby, continue to write the thesis or sleep with the baby. But I am proud of her because in the end she knows how to manage and balance it.

Looking back on her study, she started the courses one year from Indonesia due to Australia closed the border. This was the period where we knew that Auster came to our life so we have no doubt that after the border is open we will go together no matter what. That’s the inspiration of her name because she coming to the world like a wind that bring us light, happiness and calmness.

Besides gaining her knowledge and experience in her field, she is also going the extra mile by learning about R programming to support her data analysis. Despite limited time and being preoccupied with experiments and other analyses, her determination to learn is quite impressive and inspiring. Don’t get me wrong, even though she already hired me as a “private data analyst,” what I did was give her a little bit of information about R and an introduction to Stack Overflow (at that time we did not have ChatGPT yet).

In the first part, I said the hardest time of taking care of Auster was during the second or third week after the birth. If I had to choose, I would say the second one was when my wife was nearing her thesis deadline and defense. Of course, she needed more time for her research, and I tried to give her more space so she could focus on her final.

During these times, we tried to expressed honestly our tiredness to each other and imagine the finish line was very close, until it actually happened. Thanks for my wife that bring me to this amazing journey and make we understand each other a lot more, I am a very proud husband.

Aisah’s graduation and Iqbal looks stronger. (Photo by Mrs. Amalia)

Part 3: The city

It will not be a complete story if I don’t tell you about the city. Melbourne is my first aboard city that I have lived at, so this part not for comparing purpose maybe at least what I can do is compare to Indonesia. There are two things that we love most about Melbourne: the tram and the park.

Recently we Indonesian folks witnessed debate that involved public transportations. As a man who not drives, living a city with really good public transportation is like in heaven. Especially tram in Melbourne, everywhere you go in the city you can find them. I believe the combination between walking and using tram is good for our health while we also can enjoy the moment by looking around. Hopefully with that debate will trigger our good government to look more on public transportation.

Parks, so many of them there. We almost every week had a small picnic where Auster can crawling and playing on the grass. Our favorite park is the nearest to our apartment, Flagstaff Gardens which Wikipedia said it is the oldest park in Melbourne. Not really a big park I think compare to other, but because we can find it just by walking around 5 to 10 minutes makes it so special.

Besides these two, I would to tell a short about the people. One of the thing that I quite regret is not interacting much to the community. People said compare to other cities, Melbourne is more multicultural. One benefit of it is we can observe many culture (because mostly they still bring their culture) and also taste the foods. I love to have Turkish food as breakfast like Borek, Gozlem, or Zucchini where at the first impression I said that Zucchini is just like Bakwan (or Bala-bala).

Aisah finally get the food after long queue at Summer Night Festival. (Photo by author)

We haven’t complete our exploration of Melbourne and Australia, even we never see kangaroo and koala yet. Maybe it is a sign that someday we should complete this mission and bring back Auster after she grow up and can remember Melbourne. We need to go home earlier since my mom was in a critical situation, this bring us to the last part of this story.

Part 4: The legacy

Auster came to the world bringing us a lot of joy, but also a lot of longing. My parents and Aisah parents are the people that miss Auster the most, can see it every time we have a video call. I can imagine that, seeing your granddaughter every day but yet never be able to hugging and holding her. So what they can do at that time is only playing and singin virtually for her.

My mom was a teacher. When I was a child, she always bring me to the school and playing with other teacher and her students. Later on I also become her student and made her as my best teacher that I ever had.

She had a several health issue since long time ago but it coming back and forth. This past year, the condition sometimes was worst but we believe she get her health again. With my dad, she even also had a plan to visit us in Melbourne when the school holiday, but we got the visa granted too late so we never got the plan.

Auster was really become a source of happiness for her. When she was in the hospital and the condition was really bad, a video call from Auster made her get up and singing to Auster like nothing happened. Her favorite song I think was “if you happy and you know it” and she taught Auster how to clap in this song.

My mom looking at photo of newborn Auster. (Photo by my dad)

Auster still cannot understand to do the clap, not until my mom was in comma. My dad tried to tell my mom that Auster finally can clap her hand happily, but my mom still give no response, I hope she knew that.

My dad always on my mom side until she passed away after days in comma. We cannot catch the funeral but we know that it is the best for her that God has planned.

She known by her college as a caring person and her integrity as a teacher. Even when she has a bad condition she still thinking about her student and back to school again. The remaining for us now is keep her legacy and memories to make us stronger. Looking at Auster always make me remember of my mom, I miss her so much. Someday we will meet again, she can play with Auster just like my dad do every day now.

I am writing this at my hometown while listening children playing latto-latto in every corner. We take a short break and rest after a lot of emotions in this past one year before continue the journey. To Aisah my dear wife, thank you so much for this amazing roller coaster, do you want to ride another one again sometimes?

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