Whenever Mother’s Day rolls around, I can’t help but think about the numerous women in my life who have mothered me in someway. Of course there is Donna (the biological mother, baby whisperer, and best friend) but then there are my friends’ mothers, camp counselors, doctors, nurses, teachers and strangers who’ve unintentionally guided me through life in some capacity. Then there is Amy Žikić.
When I first moved to Australia in 2010, she enthusiastically greeted me with her Steven Tyler smile, infectious laughter and welcomed me to my new life in Australia. She took me under her naturally maternal wing, introduced me to friends, showed me where to get the best deals on red wine and made sure we always had enough life talks to get me through the work week. She also happened to be pregnant. In May 2011, she had her first baby girl, Zara. This had been quite the surprise to both Amy and her boyfriend, Danko, at the time. They had met while working on cruise ships in the Mediterranean and had to put that adventure on hold and decide what to do. Amy had opted to go back to Australia, move in with her parents and get on her feet, while Danko worked on moving from Serbia to Wollongong, which he did. The rest of their story could be the basis for an Oscar-worthy dramady. They’ve experienced love, loss, sacrifice, success and then some.
Some six years later, I’m a mother of two, homeowner, published author and self-confessed stress case. Most days are good, but some days are really hard. It’s during those days that I often think of Amy who has managed to overcome and devour her dreams in less than a decade. In honour of this Hallmark holiday, my Wonder Woman of a best friend agreed to answer some questions for me.
Summer: Amy, you’ve experienced an unplanned pregnancy, C-section, marriage, miscarriages, and astronomical success as a hair dresser/ salon owner, with Hair & Harlow. To say you are one of my favourite mothers on earth is an understatement. You are a goddess and a huge inspiration to me. With that being said, there are still a few questions I have for you.
When you first found out you were pregnant with Zara, how did you feel about ending your cruise ship world adventures and staying put to raise a baby?
Amy: I still remember the feeling like it was only yesterday. Meeting Danko on that ship took me by surprise, but what was more shocking was the fact that when his contract at sea ended, he had to go back to Serbia. After months of a whirlwind romance, I was left on a huge ship, one that I was brave enough to come on all by myself, strong, ambitious. Evidently, I never felt more alone and weak without him and that’s when I knew it was love and my real crazy kicked in. There are 1 million love boat stories, but how the hell was I (this full of life 23-year-old from Wollongong, Australia) ever going to make a relationship with a carefree Serbian traveller work? This is how: First, I spent all my tips from hairdressing on calling him whenever I could. I wasn’t the fun one on the ship anymore because I lost my soul mate the minute he left. One day while docked in London, I decided life was too short not to start my happily ever after, so I quit. It was our last cruise on that side of the world before that big boat took little Amy trans Atlantic all the way to Canada. (That wasn’t happening.) As the cruise ship set back out to sea, I bought a one-way ticket to Serbia to be with my man and to be honest – didn’t think about it much, like most major decisions in my life.
If you think you have been to Europe, try going with a Serbian guy, DJ Danchez, as some would call him! WE HAD THE TIME OF OUR LIVES! I got my period 5 days after being there, oh and I’ll just add that it was my last – 5 weeks later in the midst of this amazing adventure, it was late. Shit. F@%k, OMG! So like any good boyfriend would – Danko took me to the doctor who only spoke Serbian. He said I wasn’t pregnant, but we should do bloods to make sure. Danko didn’t translate that last bit so off we went for 3 more weeks into our world. My requests were mashed potato on bread, whisky (never drank it in my life) and Serbian salad) You know me, Summer, and I know how to drink (with you.) Weirdly, I would spew after 1 alcoholic drink. “Doctor Danko” decided to diagnose me himself. “Amy you are allergic to alcohol, you vomit all the time these days!” A bit baffled by my new intolerance to fermented beverages, I believed him, until 1 autumn morning whenI couldn’t catch wifi, I went down into the park outside our home, and had this terrible vomit feeling take over my body, I just knew something was going on …. I raced upstairs – and said – “Danko – write down “pregnancy test” in Serbian. I’m going to the pharmacy.”
I walked over the lake playing positive and negative in my head, there were only two options, right? My mind reeled, “What if this? What if that? How do I tell my parents I’m pregnant to this guy they have never met?” also “What on earth are wrong with me if I’m not?!”
The moment of truth – I peed the strongest positive line ever. My stomach immediately dropped and I walked up and down our apartment shouting to no one in particular, “what the hell are we going to do!?” Danko’s kind heart that has never changed – said – I’ll support you no matter what….. so the chain of events start here. I went back to the doctor and heard the heart beat and learned that I was 9 weeks pregnant Next I made the dreaded call to my parents & asked my mum to go as far away from my father as she could when I told her the news. Her answer was, “Oh honey. You will be ok, and I will support you, but I have to tell your dad.” I hung up. Four minutes later, Dad rings back, and said, “Amy, you’re smart. I know the decision you make will be the right one. I’m Putting two thousand dollars in your account and sending you money for a ticket home for the right medical care and we can go from there.” To be honest, it was not the answer I expected. In the next moment I had an overwhelming feeling that I knew I wanted to be just like them when I decided to become a mother. What was so hard for them: they made so easy for me and I’ll always love them for that.
As the youngest of four girls, calling my three sisters was harder because they’re all very different.
Sister 1: “Amy you’re 23, have an abortion. You and Danko have only been together for 6 months. Don’t do it.”
Sister 2: “I had a baby so young. Was it hard? You bet it was. Would I change it? Not a chance.
Sister 3: (She is totally in tune, because she couldn’t sleep one night, and rang me herself saying. Is everything ok? I can’t stop thinking about you?) She was shocked, but totally supportive of whatever decision I made.
I don’t know why, but I made them all think they were the only one who knew my dilemma. A few very long days passed spent googling images and seeing the size of the baby at 9 weeks, abortions, due dates, and all the rest. Although I had all of the love in the world to give, I had no job, no money and was terrified about being able to provide for a child.
However, there is one thing I couldn’t argue. I had quit my cruise ship hair dressing job for true love, and I had this heart beat in my stomach that played over and over in my head, and honestly – it felt like it was enough. The next morning Danko and I went to see his late mother where she was laid to rest, eight years prior to meeting me. Danko was only 16 when she died. I went in this grave yard, and it’s the first bit of peace I felt since finding out I was pregnant. As I stood next to Danko, I kept reading gravestones and all of the life dates just kept popping out at me. 1941 – 2001 – so many lives – that got to live. I had a baby growing inside me, our baby, with a heart beat. From that moment standing at Danko’s mum’s gravestone – I promised myself, him and our baby that no matter how hard life was about to be; that it is was OUR life. This was our family. And I knew deep in my heart from that moment that Danko’s mum sent me an angel. It’s a feeling I’ll never be able to explain properly. From that moment it was the new me – no regrets. My decision to give up cruise ships/ world travel and have our baby girl, Zara, was simply a sequence of unforeseen events that led me right here today. And that was just the beginning- what a life we made after that. Just because two people fell in love.
Summer: After flying back to Australia, how did you and Danko approach making all of your wildest dreams come true? Were you diligent with budgets, goal writing, timelines and routines or were you more of a one day at a time person?
Amy: I took every day as it came. I knew how to work hard – so I went home, worked 6 days a week as a hair dresser to save and buy Danko a ticket to come to Australia. Next was to work really hard for a bond for a little home for our new life. (You helped there by getting Danko is first job, unpacking boxes!) We lived with my parents and got second hand everything. Each week was hard and I was worked to the bone, under appreciated by my boss, even after doing 12 hour days. I got so swollen and over worked that I went into labour 6 weeks early! This was slightly confronting because we still couldn’t even afford to pay our phone bills. Funnily enough, all that worry seemed to vanish because we ended up with a healthy baby girl – 4.7 pounds and named Zara. Tiny, perfect and the best decision I ever made.
Life started even though we didn’t have much! I was just riding the wave, with a very positive outlook on my future.
Summer: After having Zara you experienced multiple miscarriages while also reworking your professional life and opening a hair salon. How did you not let the extraordinary loss effect your professional life, or did it?
Amy: After I gave birth to Zara, I started working really hard again. 1 week after our wedding when Zara was 8 months old, my goal was to have $1,000 dollars in my savings. Those 2 years were save – Europe trips to keep Danko’s family involved, working Damn hard both of us – Danko giving up weekend nights to work on the front desk of Quest apartments. And me 12 hour days to save for a home in the future. By the time Zara was 2, our hard work had paid off and a lot had changed. I had reached a point in my career where I was known for the highest standard of hairdressing and having a clientele through the roof. While I was still working at my old salon where I had been for 10 years of my career, I fell pregnant. Again, the timing wasn’t perfect as we were living in a small 2 bedroom place in North Beach Wollongong and didn’t yet have a house. However, we were thrilled about our family growing.
Sadly – that wasn’t our baby. I suffered a miscarriage while six weeks along. I can’t explain the sadness. I was devastated, defeated & just didn’t think things like that happened to me. I kept pushing like I did, found my love for red wine in this time, and this was the in between years I call them that I would never wish on anyone. Looking for a distraction from the pain, I took a stand for my life at that point, and I opened my salon with my best friend who was my support through all of this. We opened the hair phenomenon called Hair&Harlow (started small and the rest is history – I could talk for hours about that, but that’s another story.) With the salon thriving, I fell pregnant again. Obviously, I was thrilled, but also a bit more scared this time now that I knew a miscarriage could happen to me.
And then one morning – along came miscarriage number 2 – three months after we had opened Hair&Harlow. Again, I was 6 weeks along – no reason why – it just wasn’t my baby again (exactly 9 months after the first one.) Because we had been trying for this baby every moneth since the first miscarriage, the heart break was even more intense. Another baby – gone. I was defeated, but very busy with my career, so here is when decision 2 happened….. We built a new Hair&Harlow in Fairy Meadow, and my pain transformed into passion. I became more compassionate to my clients, and understanding that everyone has a story and I was in the middle of mine. To be completely honest – I shut myself off from friends because I didn’t want to be that girl who cried every time she tried to speak about her loss. I stuck with my sisters, Danko and Zara and we built our story. I was hurting so bad inside (that bad it makes me tear up while writing,) but I achieved my Fair Meadow salon goal, because I am not one to give up on a dream.
In the midst of my personal grief, our Hair&Harlow salon fame in the industry grew and I fell pregnant again. Boom – miscarriage number 3 (Fuck you world.) At only five months after the second one, this was particularly horrific. Ectopic, in my tube, no place to grow and it left me very very sick. Doctors saved my tube, but I was left with no vision at its peak in hospital, and really unwell. My hormone level was going down so slow that it took me over 2 months to lose that baby, having bloods at our local hospital every second day until my hormone level was zero.
On the day I finally hit 0, I took myself to the races, got blind drunk and said fuck you world to the last two years of my life. The only thing that kept be going was my gratitude for my baby and my husband. Determined to expand our family, I found the best medical care I could and was simply advised to take aspirin the next time I fell, along with injections of blood thinner into my stomach. When I finally got the courage to try for a baby again, we had booked a family trip to Bali. As they say it only takes 1 time. Whoops – you know the rest! I was pregnant – I jabbed my tummy every single day – without a fear in this world – and there is the story of Indi, my second baby girl, my gift, I was complete. On the day she was born, that’s when the pain disappeared. Even though my journey thus far had been mostly devastating, I wouldn’t change any of it, because that made me exactly the person I am today! Pain – fueled into passion, serviced by love.
Summer: As a fellow working mom of two, I constantly feel like I have FOMO in every aspect of my life. Am I missing out on family time? Work time? Friend time? Event time? Do you feel like you can’t do everything all the time? When do you know when it’s time to sit down and rest?
Amy: With two outstanding salons, a team of over 15 amazing girls, two beautiful little girls, our family home in Wollongong, a gorgeous little apartment right in the heart of Surry hills, amazing opportunities in the hair industry, I constantly feel respected, honoured and loved for my hard work, which makes the juggling act completely worth it. When I’m at work – I’m there – wholehearted, because after all I love it and I’m not changing it anytime soon! When I’m at home, I’m really at home doing exactly what I love, being with my family. Yes it gets hard, but I just try to be efficient with my time and have less guilt, because I know that I’m doing all of this hard work for my family. It warms my heart every time Zara tells me that she wants to be just like me. Sure I’m still finding the balance. Especially since opening my second location in Sydney. Seeing as though I’m writing this on a 24 hour flight to Serbia, some will say I’m doing ok. This year I’m throwing away the guilt, embracing all that life throws at me, juggling the crazy cool, thing I call me life….. learn to love yourself a little more, gym, eat well , feed your passion, never stop learning, and just be a bloody good person.
Summer: Every time I see you, it seems like you’re radiating positivity and kindness – do you have any inspirational people in your life you’ve learned from? Do you meditate? Tell me how you’ve managed to manifest such a loving and successful life!
Amy: I simply just look around! I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I feel like I’m good at life. I use the tools we are all given and I actually make shit happen! People are too busy, feeling sorry for the bad lives they live in, rather than taking control & realising we all have to much power to create, make or break our destiny! My story is clear- love, passion, commitment, and never giving up on what you love! I love my family, I love my friends I love my work, and I’m passionate about making people better! Sure I have down days: but that’s just bloody life; and hormones, there’s no story to dealing with that as we are all different. Oh and did I mention I love red wine….. I don’t read often, but I love inspirational speakers, business summits, and I learn daily from all of my clients! Don’t ever shut yourself off from the world- people make us grow, we all do life our own way, this is just my spin on it.