Ellidy Pullin & her precious ‘Minnie Alex Pullin’
In October 2021, Ellidy Pullin announced the safe arrival and birth of her child ‘Minnie Alex Pullin’; with late Australian snowboard world champion Alex “Chumpy” Pullin.
Ellidy had dreams of a natural, calm environment for Minnie’s grand entrance (and that she did, AND SHE ALSO USED OUR TENS!). Ellidy’s birth story can be listened to via her podcast, Darling Shine! Season 2, Episode 9. Ellidy’s Birth Story!
We, and the world have fallen in love with Ellidy, Minnie, and their bittersweet love story.
Ellidys story can also be watched via 7NEWS Spotlight: Bubba Chump
Ellidy in labour with her Mama and I TENS. Images owned by Mama and I TENS. Photographed by SugarmanCreative.
The below article was originally published in Vogue Australia’s September 2021 issue.
Of all the things I thought I would be doing on the day my life was about to change forever, cutting the fringe tassels from my floor rug was not one of them. I had just answered the door to my neighbour who explained she had just read on the community Facebook page that a man had been pulled unconscious from the water at Palm Beach reef. I thanked her, closed the door and went back to trimming the rug.
The man would, in fact, turn out to be my partner of eight years, Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin, 32, who, just an hour earlier had kissed me farewell on the driveway of our home. “We’ll do something together when I get back,” he offered as he hopped into the car and headed off to his favourite spearfishing spot at our local beach.
Any psychologist will tell you that when faced with a life-shifting event – the type that shatters life’s footings – your mind will revisit that day like an album on repeat. I remember the pin-drop moment when the policeman asked me whether my partner had tattoos, to which I answered, “Yes, an axe on his chest,” and his eyes spoke the words he couldn’t deliver. I remember fumbling with my phone as I tried to call Chumpy’s parents, not entirely grasping what I was supposed to be telling them.
I remember writing—“Chump passed away”—in perhaps the strangest text I’ll ever send to my closest girlfriends. In those immediate days after losing Chumpy, and oftentimes now, I feel like a fly on the wall to my life; a witness to my own grief, but somehow not the main character.
That mental soundtrack has been playing a lot lately. A year has passed since Chumpy set off on an otherwise perfect Wednesday and my mind is still connecting the dots. Perhaps it’s trying to uncover fresh information or memories as if they might tell me something other than the facts: that my soulmate went spearfishing and didn’t return. Or perhaps it’s a reminder of how far I’ve come as I prepare for another of life’s big moments: motherhood.
Chumpy and I had been trying for a baby for nine months before the accident, and, like many couples, were hoping for a positive pregnancy test each month. We were beginning to consider our options and had started to think about IVF. In the immediate hours following Chumpy’s accident, a close friend gently floated the idea of sperm retrieval. With the support of Chumpy’s family, it wasn’t a question of ‘if’ but ‘how’.
Ellidy Pullin with her late partner Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin in 2018. Photographed by Jamie Green
Like a natural conception, when it comes to sperm retrieval, timing is everything. Under current Queensland guidelines, retrieving sperm from a deceased person should be done within 36 hours (sperm can survive within the body for several days) and is a rigorous process involving a host of signed legal documents, coroner’s approval, and the cooperation of a fertility doctor from an IVF clinic. It’s only with the benefit of time, that I truly understand the enormous amount of effort my family, friends, lawyers, and doctors put in, in those critical hours after Chump passed away, to give me the opportunity to continue our dream of starting a family. Even the fact that Chumpy’s accident occurred on a weekday meant that the roll call of specialists I needed to make this possible were available; had it been a weekend, my future may have looked vastly different.
One thing I’ve learned over the past year is that sometimes, life’s most difficult decisions, can also be the most straightforward. By November, I felt ready to meet with the fertility doctor to discuss IVF: the process that would make carrying our biological child a possibility. I knew the journey wouldn’t be easy: being pregnant wasn’t going to bring Chumpy back, nor tie a neat bow around my grief. In fact, pregnancy, birth, and motherhood, would likely create secondary losses and fresh shoots of grief in the myriad “I wish you were here” pangs that shoulder everything I do, and would be illuminated by a tiny human being.
When I started IVF in December last year, I made a pact that I wouldn’t push this dream uphill. Realistically, I knew any baby born via fertility treatment is a miracle, and I didn’t have bottomless financial or emotional reserves for infinite rounds. When the first embryo transfer wasn’t successful, it was a fresh blow, but knowing I had another embryo on stand-by, I decided to try again two months later. As soon as that embryo was transferred, I had a gut-feeling it was the one, and at the time of writing, I’m waiting for his or her safe arrival earthside, in the coming months.
One might think that on the other side of grief lies joy, but I’ve learned grief, hope, strength and happiness can coexist. Alongside the euphoria that comes with the imminent arrival of our baby, I feel a deep-seated sadness that Chumpy won’t get the chance to play dad, a role that would have come so naturally to him. Being pregnant is bittersweet; on one hand I feel overwhelmed with happiness thinking, “Oh, my goodness, it’s alive, it’s really there,” while also knowing Chump’s not here to share in it.
Ultimately however, hope trumps pain. I feel lucky that Chumpy was who he was; in life and in loss, Chumpy is the gift that keeps on giving. I can type his name into YouTube and view a digital library of his adventures growing up and travelling the world. There are endless clips of him shredding mountains, delivering keynote speeches, and, on Spotify, playlists humming with the music he so loved to create. Ironically, many mums have shared with me that their baby can’t fall asleep without a particular Chumpy tune or that they load his playlist in the car for their kids on the way to school. Of course, I feel a similar calm when I listen to his songs and I can only imagine our son or daughter might feel the same way, too. Our child won’t have a physically present dad, but I know he or she will never be confused by where they came from.
In many ways, it simply feels like I’m carrying the torch of our future. It sits differently to how it did before, but there’s still something familiar; I still use Chumpy’s toothbrush (it’s electric!), I still sing out “Hey, Chumpy” whenever I pass his music studio in our home, and some day very soon, a little piece of Chumpy will be back in my arms again.