*Trigger warning: this piece discusses issues around fertility. If you have suffered any trauma around pregnancy and find this discussion triggering, we want to let you know now in case you prefer to opt out of reading this article.
Let’s face it. As women, we go through so much.
There’s gender-based discrimination, the pay gap, the unnecessary focus on the shape of our bodies, and the shame and stigma around the challenges of motherhood.
Of course there’s so much we can add to this list, but this week we wanted to get open and real about sharing the challenges that can sometimes be attached to pregnancy.
Now, before going any deeper into this I want to acknowledge that parenthood is not for everyone and it’s completely YOUR choice if you want to walk down that road or not.
But if you do want to take that journey into parenthood, then for your sake - we need to get better about having open conversations.
Even more so, it’s for the sake of our wider collective - to be able to have these honest discussions about where babies come from.
This can all start with just one action: dispelling the associated silence, shame and stigma that people, but particularly women, face when confronted with fertility challenges or taking the option to defer childbirth by putting some time, and eggs, ‘on ice’.
A great inspiration when it comes to this is the remarkable Anne Hathaway.
When the actress announced her second pregnancy on Instagram, she was so refreshingly open with her fans about her difficult journey to conception.
"For everyone going through infertility and conception hell, please know it was not a straight line to either of my pregnancies."
Expanding on this in a later interview with the Daily Mail, she said: "Each time I was trying to get pregnant and it wasn't going my way, someone else would manage to conceive. I knew intellectually that it didn't happen just to torment me, but, to be honest, it felt a little bit like it did.
What made matters worse was that I was embarrassed to feel like that because there was no conversation to be had about it. This is something people don't talk about, and I think they should.
So, when I was writing that post, I was thinking about that one follower I might reach, the woman who's in hell about this and can't figure out why it's not happening for her.”
Hats off to Anne! And she makes a good point: why is there no conversation to be had about it? Why are we as women silent on an issue that affects so many of us?
Let’s be honest, in school we learn so much about contraception that you’d think you’d fall pregnant at the drop of a hat, but this, for many, is far from reality.
Having to go through these difficult life events is no doubt confusing, stressful and scary, after all, aren’t we just supposed to fall pregnant? Isn’t that what our bodies are meant to do?! After all, it’s what the media and film industry would have us believe.
The real-life, non-movie reality is that there’s more than one way to make a baby. Every day in Australia 40 babies are born after being created through IVF. So if it turns out that your story goes a little differently from the way you expected, you’re definitely not alone.
Alongside the helping hand from science to have our baby, what we really need is for our inner circle of women to open up, share their stories and create a safe space for other women to do the same.
Because as we know in life, sometimes things don’t happen the way they're ‘supposed’ to but it's usually okay in the end.
If you’re the kind of woman who likes to plan, you might feel even more pressure to have full control over everything that happens to your body.
Fellow type A personality, model and businesswoman, Jennifer Hawkins, is an example of this; being a fabulous woman who has spoken so honestly about her fertility issues recently.
Telling Stellar magazine about the pain of losing her first pregnancy when the ultrasound demonstrated there was no heartbeat, she said:
“As a woman and a type A personality, I’m used to planning everything. I think this will happen, then this will happen.
It seemed like a lifetime as month after month people constantly asked us when we were going to have a baby.
I had so many years of planning, but the one thing I so dearly wanted couldn’t be planned. Everything crumbled. Women want everything to be OK. Sometimes it’s just not.”
Jennifer went on to have her first baby in October 2019.
It’s no secret that empowering other women gives us that opportunity to inspire others - and to release that shame for ourselves.
We already feel left outside of the tribe. Let’s not add the pain of feeling isolated by this.
And remember - if motherhood is your thing and you’re having complications, you’ve got options!
Your body equals your choice.
If you had to take cholesterol medication, you wouldn’t feel judgement about doing it.
So, if you want to get pregnant and your body isn’t doing what you want it to do, you can and should receive medical help for that without any associated judgement either.
Let’s normalise talking about these issues because they are exactly that, normal.
I always find it helpful to look at the stats here: one in six Australian couples will have a fertility issue.
That’s a lot of Aussie couples!
Even more so, sometimes infertility isn’t at all about women!
In fact, statistically, it’s an even split with approximately 40% of infertility cases stemming from issues on the man’s side and 40% caused by problems on the woman’s side (the other 20% of cases are considered unexplained infertility) according to Australia’s top-performing IVF and fertility clinic, Genea.
Within partnerships, there can also be a lot of guilt and resentment - with many women (and men) speaking of the guilt in ‘letting down’ their partner or their parents or in-laws if they’re unable to conceive.
The truth is, until we’re able to come out of the shadows and open up these dialogues - feeling comfortable to talk about these difficult issues together with conviction, we won't be able to fully embrace the fact that we’re not alone: that we are not the only ones struggling with our journey into motherhood. Silence drives shame.
It’s also good to know how to identify any infertility issues that may be taking place and what your options are if you wish to walk down the road of parenthood.
Research shows that it takes couples 26 months on average to seek help conceiving. The reality is, having issues with infertility can be defined as early as at 12 months, so it may be worth seeking advice from your doctor before then for your peace of mind. The newsflash here is: you don’t need to keep on pushing yourself to conceive naturally, when you’ve got options.
If you would like to know more our friends at Genea will be holding a FREE webinar with their Fertility Specialist who will sort fact from fiction and talk you through all things fertility-related. It’s taking place on the 17th March - and you can find out more by clicking here.
While IVF itself used to be socially stigmatised, with the taboos around children ‘being conceived in a petri dish’, through public awareness and open, brave conversations fully embracing vulnerability, it’s now the new norm. Plus, seeking help does not mean you’re necessarily heading down the route of IVF, there are many options and lots of support out there, you’ve just got to find the right one for you.
You’re in the driving seat - and we stand by you, whatever you decide to do.
If you feel comfortable, we’d also love to hear you share your pregnancy or health-related story in our Facebook Group. It’s a great way to feel the support of our remarkable community, who may have gone through something very similar too and share how they survived - and thrived.
Thank you to our partner, IVF and fertility clinic, Genea.