Erin Deering founded Triangl Swimwear with her then-partner Craig Ellis back in 2012. From the outside it looked like she had it all – a glamorous life in Monaco, a global multi-million-dollar business and a growing family. But behind closed doors, she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And then her marriage to Craig broke down while she was pregnant with their second child. Here, she shares with marie claire the reality of what it was really like inside one of Australia’s most successful start-up stories, how her relationship ended and birthing her second child…
I know Craig did what he knew he had to do: end our relationship to save our son from the pain of growing up with this trauma in his life.
He called me from the car, on the way to the airport, and told me he couldn’t continue things as they were, and we needed to end our relationship.
Rather than feeling shocked, I was relieved. I finally felt like I was closer to being free, from whatever hell I’d put myself in. I’d convinced myself it was Craig who was the reason I suffered so greatly, and this felt like a big step forward into reclaiming myself.
The truth is that I had let our romantic relationship take a backseat from the time Triangl launched. I was never able to voice my needs to Craig, for fear of being rejected, but then resented him for not meeting my needs. It was really that simple and why I never fully participated in our relationship over decisions like getting married, or buying new properties, or anything else relating to our personal lives.
I didn’t like being entwined in each other’s lives, the way we were, 24/7, but he did.
So, that mismatch alone was enough to cause huge issues between us from very early on.
We were the couple that brought out the best in each other and the worst in each other, at different times.
We had opposing views a lot of the time, and, in my opinion, this was a big driver in Triangl’s success, because we always saw things from a very different point of view, and had to fight for what we wanted in the business. On a personal level, it became increasingly hard for me to manage always having different – sometimes fundamentally different – views on everything.
It wasn’t always doom and gloom, and there were things we always both enjoyed. We were both sun lovers who always sought Vitamin D where possible. We both always wanted the same type of food when we travelled, and always wanted to eat the same thing, and, of course, we both had a great love for fashion and business, and loved cruising the streets of wherever we were, checking out different brands for inspiration.
We worked hard to navigate that last month before I gave birth in an amicable way.
We’d never set up anything formally, in the event of a separation, so we were having to wing it, and work it out on our own.
The plan we both agreed on was that once I’d had the baby, we’d work out the steps of a formal separation. Craig moved into an apartment on another floor, and we waited to have our second child.
As Oscar was so early, we were mindful of the same this time around. My OB also warned me I was progressing in the same way as I was with Oscar, so from six weeks before my due date, I was told to stay almost sedentary, and relax as much as possible.
The mental battle of feeling like you could go into labour at any moment was rather challenging, and I convinced myself every single night that contractions were starting, and yet they never did. After a very boring six weeks, and a day past my due date, I arranged for an induction. I was well and truly over waiting, and this baby needed to get out, so my new life, whatever it was, could start.
We arrived at the hospital, Craig, Oscar and me – and the induction process began. I was admitted in the evening, at around 7pm. And the plan was to have the induction tablet then, and then the drip the next morning, to have the baby the following day.
The tablet was inserted at around 9pm, and I was wheeled into the room at around 10.30pm, to spend the night. An hour later, or perhaps even less, I started to feel contractions. Those familiar surges in pain, coming and going. They were more gentle this time, but still very much growing with each movement.
I buzzed for the nurse, who promptly called my OB, who came in, and, after a quick exam, arranged for me to be wheeled back into the delivery suite as I was in labour.
I immediately requested the epidural, a bit of a necessity, considering I had Oscar next to me, still very much awake and extremely interested in his surroundings.
Once the medication had taken force, and the calm had taken over, I settled into the night. Craig took Oscar to a room for some sleep, and to get some himself. I didn’t ask him to stay, and he didn’t offer.
I was again alone, as I’d been for Oscar’s birth, and it felt okay. I knew I was able to do this again, and I felt the strength in being alone, whether it was something I had forced upon myself or not.
I felt empowered in both those labour experiences; being alone felt like it was how it was supposed to be. It felt like a reminder that I was strong, that I was able to do things that were hard, and do them because I was capable.
It had only been a few hours when I started to feel pressure right below my coccyx bone. I hadn’t felt this with Oscar, but it hit me hard this time around. I didn’t even know this meant the baby was coming. So I tried to ignore it for a good few minutes before I realised this sensation wasn’t going away and I buzzed for the midwife.
In came the OB, who again had chosen to stay the night, to be there for me – a decision again I was completely floored by and ultimately just so grateful for.
It was happening, and I was minutes away from giving birth. The doctor leaned in. ‘Do you want me to wake Craig? Do you want him here for the birth?’
Craig and I hadn’t discussed how this part of the birth would work now that we were separated, which in hindsight wasn’t very smart of us. Perhaps we were both avoiding it to not have to say what we wanted. I knew I didn’t want him there; I wanted to go it alone, for the second time. So I asked for them to leave him, and wake him as soon as the baby was born.
It didn’t take long to push this baby out, and while I felt nothing with Oscar, I felt pressure in my body like nothing else, and it felt far tougher than the first time. I was more aware this time, and when they placed Oly onto my chest I knew to look for any signs of illness and any movements by others in the room that would alert me to something being wrong.
But nothing was wrong; he was perfect. He was a perfect size, a perfect baby. Immediately his presence calmed me and I felt euphorically good.
Craig had been called in during these first minutes, and came in with a broad smile on his face. He hadn’t missed really much at all; Oly was only minutes old, and I knew I’d made the right decision to leave him sleeping while I gave birth to our little boy.
I was wheeled into the ward room, an hour or so after, and Oly was taken to the nursery so I could get a few hours’ rest. It was at this time Oscar woke up and walked over to my bed, climbing in and sleeping with me for an hour or so. The absolute joy in being able to be there for my first-born son in that moment, knowing I’d successfully given birth to a healthy baby, his brother, felt so raw, so beautiful, and it filled me with such love for my little family.
Later, Craig and Oscar went back to the apartment to freshen up while Oly and I were moved into a new room. My experience after having Oscar had felt frantic and chaotic, and Oscar had cried all the time, which I thought was just how all new babies were, so I sat and waited for Oly to do the same.
But Oly was calm; he was still. He only wriggled when he needed feeding, and then after feeding, and a gentle burp, I would lay him back down and he would drift off to sleep. I was absolutely awestruck by him, and filled with immense gratitude for a baby so calm and so peaceful.
That one night in hospital was blissful. I kept waiting for cries but he never gave me any. Oly gave me hope that I could make it as a single mum, and so after that first night we checked out of hospital, and went home.
Being in a serviced apartment was an easy place to transition to from hospital. It was cleaned daily, room service was available, and there was a team of people around to help if any trouble arose. After arriving home, on that same day Craig and Oscar left for New York for two weeks. A decision Craig made so I could have a reprieve from Oscar, who was the sweetest child, but still a needy two-and-a-half year old. I was in part appreciative of this, but largely I felt sad.
As much as I was able to do this alone, I didn’t really want to. I wanted Oly to be enjoyed, shared, loved, by not just me but by his brother and his dad. But I didn’t say anything, and let them leave.
It was a very peaceful time with Oly, albeit lonely. I distinctly remember feeding him in those long nights, when the rest of the world was seemingly asleep, except for us. I’d open the blinds to look out on to the lights of Hong Kong. We faced Victoria Harbour as well as the cityscape, and it was the perfect bright light to fill the room at nighttime.
I never allowed myself to feel anything other than gratitude for him. And it was the truth, anyway. I was so grateful to Oly, for allowing me to love like this, for teaching me what it could feel like every day, not just when thinking of him.
It was in those first few weeks with him that I felt like I wasn’t completely gone, even though I still had no idea how to get back to myself – how to come back to me.
This is an extract from Hanging On By A Thread by Erin Deering, published by Affirm Press.