Counting down to parenthood
It is an exciting time for Marcelle Disanayake and Damien Balachandran who are expecting their first child in June. They reflect on their relationship, faith and impending birth.
“I am 32 and moved from Melbourne to Canberra to work in the public service about 10 years ago.
“I was a leader in the Young Adults group at St Christopher’s Cathedral and that’s where I met Damien. I was born and raised in Melbourne to Sri Lankan parents and Damien is Indian-Malaysian. But we were both altar servers as well as readers and musicians, we both played sport and did pretty well at school. Our values were the same.
“I had never met anybody who felt the same way about their faith and we recognized that in each other quite quickly.
“The most attractive thing about Damien was that we could relate to each other on a deep faith level. We met in 2013, started dating in 2014, got engaged in 2017 at the Cathedral and got married at my family’s parish in Melbourne in 2018.
“Having a miscarriage was heartbreaking. It is not really discussed which is so sad when you think that women talk about pretty much everything else.
“Our baby is due on June 22, such a spark in otherwise a very dark year with the bushfires and coronavirus. The first trimester was hard because of the threat of miscarriage so we were just there for each other and turning to prayer to keep us sane.
“It has been an interesting journey. We are not near our families so we’re going through trial and error to see what works for us. It’s been really good for our relationship, dreaming of what it will be like to be parents. Damien is amazing. He makes sure I’m not carrying anything heavy and goes out of his way to make me as comfortable as possible.
“My faith is very strong. I don’t always love the institution but you have to be part of it to make the change and make it stronger. There are many things to be proud of in our church and many things to be ashamed of. We need to be less focused on the institution and tradition and more on our faith.
Our parish is St Peter Chanel’s in Yarralumla where we are readers and do the music once a month. I love going there. I want our child to grow up in a real parish community and not be the single Catholic kid in the suburb.”
“I am 31 and a hardware engineer. I won a scholarship to ANU and came to Australian from Malaysia when I was 19. I lived on campus and let’s say it was hard going to church on a Sunday morning after a big night out!
“God works in mysterious ways. I started working but my job was supposed to be casual. I went from booking tickets to leave the country to a new person joining our organization who saw value in what I was doing and wanted to keep me on. That’s when I decided I needed to find a sense of home, which for me was very much linked to the church.
“Faith is not a huge part of the fabric of society in Australia so when I met Marci I saw someone who held all these things that were near and dear to me. It seemed you had to be a person in the world or the church. There was a duality there I did not agree with.
“We had to work through differences of opinion from our cultural backgrounds. We drilled down into what really mattered to us which was our faith. We could always reconcile at church and that became an important baseline for us every week to reset.
“I feel incredibly excited about becoming a Dad but I’m scared too! We experienced miscarriage so that was particularly traumatic. Now we have moved to a real state of happiness and feel incredibly blessed.
“My faith is the most important part of myself. Speaking about faith is hard in Australia whereas in Malaysia faith is very much engrained in daily life. I believe in the structure of the church but parishioners feel very remorseful about child sexual abuse and I don’t think that has been conveyed well enough by our clergy. The fact the Council of Priests in Brisbane just admitted a woman is truly shocking and clearly not enough.
“It doesn’t matter how things have gone for us during the week, the church is our place to start again. During the Our Father if we are not holding hands it feels wrong. We started doing that early on. We hadn’t really held hands and it was so exciting so we continued it. It is one of many things about our relationship I relish.”