When Alicia Butler was about to return to work in Perth in 2014, seven months after the birth of her first daughter Alice, she was diagnosed with an unruptured brain aneurysm.
“After the diagnosis I had a different outlook on life, and with no family support in Perth, I decided to stay at home to look after Alice rather than put her into daycare,” says the 33-year-old from Co Louth, who moved to Australia in 2008 with her partner, Gerard.
Her brown soda bread was immensely popular among her Irish friends in Perth, so she decided to turn her baking hobby into a business.
She now supplies some of the Irish shops and bigger supermarkets around Perth with Alicia’s Delights Irish bread and cakes, as well as keeping the women at the Irish Mums NOR playgroup in Padbury happy with a regular “taste of home”.
Last year, Alicia and Gerard, who runs his own kitchen business, had another daughter Annie. Within five days of the birth, Alicia and the two girls were back at the playgroup, which she has found to be hugely supportive and encouraging.
“In Ireland, Alice has six cousins, close in age, but here she doesn’t have that so we come to playgroup. We look forward to coming here every Monday morning. I know she is going to get out to play, and I can sit down for a bit of peace and a cup of tea.
“Because there are so many kids here around the same age, if you have sleep issues or feeding, you can just message the other mums. If it is 9am here and 2am in the morning in Ireland, who are you going to ask at home? Here, you can get a direct response and talk to people rather than going to family who are in bed asleep and you could be waiting a day for a reply.”
Alicia believes being in Perth has encouraged her to explore other ways of parenting she hadn’t seen much of in Ireland, like extended breastfeeding, baby-led weaning and baby wearing (using baby slings or carriers).
“I can do things my way here,” she says. “If I was at home there would be a lot of influence to do things a different way.
“For example, I breastfed Alice until halfway through my pregnancy with Annie; I don’t think I would have been able to do that at home.”
Alice has got to know her family in Ireland through FaceTime.
“She picks up a phone and looks at it rather than putting it to her ear because that’s how she talks to people. My mother and sister came over for the first time at Christmas, but no one else has met Annie yet.
“Alice they only met once when we went home when she was only 12 weeks old. That is the sad bit of it. But she has all her wee buddies here.”
This article was researched with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs' Global Irish Media Fund.