For all the wonders of science, fertility can still be something of a mystery. Despite the miracles of modern medicine, there are no guarantees, and sometimes, it simply doesn’t work – and no one knows exactly why. It can be a heartbreaking realisation for anyone desperate to fall pregnant. And it’s one Nina Ebsworth was forced to face time and time again during her fertility journey...
That’s why the now mum-of-three (sorry to give away the happy ending) has becoming a professional fertility guide. During her 9 rounds of IVF, she struggled to cope, until her brother and sister-in-law’s pregnancy announcement tipped her over the edge. When she reached her breaking point, she realised she’d been holding back, not allowing herself to fully grieve the losses she’d endured. And when she was able to do that, something truly magical happened.
Now, she helps others traverse the emotional rollercoaster of fertility…
I had always felt I wanted to be a Mum and have a family. It’s something that I had always just assumed I would have. However, looking back, in the beginning I honestly didn’t know if this was something I had been conditioned to both want and expect, or if it was a completely personal desire. As women, we kind of get set on this course from a young age that we’re meant have certain things by a certain time. Definitely during my twenties, there was the unspoken expectation of the next step in my life being to find a partner and have a baby.
When I met my husband in my mid-thirties, we both knew we wanted kids with each other and were super upfront about that from the word go. I stopped the contraceptive pill straight away, expecting that I would get pregnant easily and effortlessly, but this didn’t happen. I now know this was a sign to me that my body wasn’t in balance. When I stopped the pill I also had a full check up with my OB-GYN, to make sure everything was looking ok, and these tests highlighted a few fertility related issues.
My OB-GYN suggested we first check my fertility hormones, track my cycle properly, and do some ultrasounds of my uterus. The first thing we discovered according to these tests was a low AMH, and low ovarian reserve. I also went on to have an HSG which revealed my fallopian tubes had a blockage, and a hysteroscopy to examine the inside of my womb with a camera. It was through this testing that the concept of ‘infertility’ first came onto my radar really. It was indicated it would be near impossible for me to get pregnant naturally, and that due to my age the best option would be to move straight to IVF.
I was so scared at the idea of not being able to have a baby that we agreed immediately. We even had to bring our wedding forwards to start this process, as you have to be married in Singapore, where we were living at the time, to do IVF!
Sadly I suffered multiple miscarriages, and I found our losses incredibly hard to deal with. It was truly heartbreaking, and my mental and emotional wellbeing were definitely not good during this time. On top of the grief of the loss, I felt like it was all my fault, that my body was broken, that I had failed myself, my husband and the babies. My self-worth was really at an all time low. I felt worthless that I couldn’t do this one thing I was supposedly meant to do as a woman.
Honestly with all the big emotions I was feeling, I didn’t give myself enough space and time to grieve each loss fully. I didn’t have the knowledge or awareness then that I do now. We did carry out our own personal rituals for the babies, to say goodbye, which did help me a lot. This ritual consisted of a little ceremony, just the hubby and me, by the ocean. However, the reality was, I was so all-consumed with having a baby that I just wanted to push away and repress the heaviness of the emotions I was feeling around our losses, so I could move onto the next cycle.
There was such a strong feeling of urgency, of desperation, of time running out, that rather than allowing myself to grieve fully, I would snap into planning mode, trying to control and organise. I didn’t realise that by keeping all of that emotion stuck inside me, I was adding to the imbalance within my body, and this was not pleasant to experience. I felt constantly low, foggy, fatigued, on the verge of tears, anxious and totally overwhelmed.
The following cycles didn’t work. I am certain a huge part of this is because I simply was not in the right energetic space, physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. If I could give that younger self any advice it would definitely be to pause, to breathe, and to give myself more time between those cycles to surrender to what was going on inside me, rather than push it away. I most definitely packed the treatments way too close together to be able to process what I was experiencing properly.
In the beginning I shared a lot of the journey with family and friends, but as we went on, I began to share only with the closest of them. It was important for me to have this support from people I trusted and felt safe with, who nourished me and lifted my energy. And most importantly, who I could just be myself with. If I wanted to talk about it we would talk. If I didn’t, we didn’t.
“ On top of the grief of the loss, I felt like it was all my fault, that my body was broken, that I had failed myself, my husband and the babies. My self-worth was really at an all-time low. I felt worthless that I couldn't do this one thing I was supposedly meant to do as a woman ”
We did announce pregnancies to our immediate family and best friends. We both needed and wanted this support during the pregnancies, and as we went through the losses. We were also living overseas and away from family so this connection was incredibly important for us both.
I can’t speak for everyone of course but I found IVF incredibly hard, and I know many of the women I support feel the same. Of course it is physically tough, but it can be emotionally and mentally challenging too. I felt so sensitive and very up and down, bursting into tears over the slightest thing. It was a roller coaster. Obviously if you’ve been through a cycle that didn’t result in a pregnancy, or resulted in a pregnancy and then a loss, it can be extremely tough to get yourself mentally prepared and into the right space to go again.
The pregnancy announcements and baby showers seemed to surround us and get closer and closer, and as they did I was increasingly triggered. I would be dying on the inside, but to the outside world (other than my hubby) I would just smile and pretend I was ok.
The final straw came when my younger brother announced he and his wife were pregnant, and we had just had another loss. This moment tipped me over the edge emotionally and mentally. I had to tell them I couldn’t see them or be in touch with them for a while. I knew it would be too much for me to cope with. I had reached breaking point, so it was really about self preservation.
It was, without any doubt, the moment of a huge period of transformation for me. I realised if I was this triggered by my own family, who I love and adore, and the pregnancy of my incoming nephew, then I needed to start to look at what was going on inside me.
I realised for my own wellbeing, I had to create this space to be fully aware, fully present with it all, not only to grieve our losses properly but to allow myself to connect and drop fully into my body and everything I was holding onto. I had to move towards what I was feeling, not away from it, and by doing so this allowed for a huge shift within me.
It was after this period of transformation that we embarked on our final round of IVF, and I got pregnant with twins.
Again, it was a roller coaster! We had agreed to do one last round of IVF, and then call it a day if it didn’t work. I started stimulation in Singapore, working with the hospital and doctors back home in the UK where we wanted to do the retrieval and transfer. My husband stayed with me till after transfer, but then had to fly back to Singapore for work, and I stayed on with my family and best mates. I had slept at my best friend’s house the day before I was due to do the pregnancy test.
She and I sat in the toilet together at 6.30am while I peed on a stick and we waited. As you can imagine, there were tears, and a whole lot of hugging when we saw it showing positive. But, from my past experience I knew this was just one step.
Next I had to go to the hospital for a blood test to check my HCG levels were high enough for a viable pregnancy. Then the hospital tested these levels every two days. It felt like forever till I got to go for that six week scan. My Mum joined me, as the hubby was still back at work in Singapore. The nurse started the scan and we watched the screen and it just remained black. No image, no heartbeat. The energy in the room was palpable. It felt like forever until eventually the nurse said “there we are, there’s a nice heartbeat”, and we heard the sound of my baby. It was overwhelming relief and we were all crying with joy.
“ If you've been through a cycle that didn't result in a pregnancy, or resulted in a pregnancy and then a loss, it can be extremely tough to get yourself mentally prepared and into the right space to go again ”
Then a minute later she said, “oh hold on, look at this, we’ve got another heartbeat!” Needless to say I was totally hysterical. She actually had to ask me if I was ok with twins, because I couldn’t speak! It was an incredible moment!
Of course I had lots of anxiety throughout the pregnancy. I don’t think it’s possible to not have moments of feeling scared, anxious, or worried when you have struggled. I was having quite big bleeds during this pregnancy, and I was already categorised as a high risk pregnancy, so of course my mind would want to immediately jump to ‘I’m having a miscarriage’, or ‘something is wrong’.
However, what I will say is that I was in a totally different place going into this last round of IVF, and it changed so much of my experience of both the cycle itself and the pregnancy. I would have these fearful moments, but each time I was able to bring myself back very easily to the present moment. Each time I allowed myself to feel whatever I was feeling, and then would return to this place of peace using my breath, using visualizations, using meditations, using touch. I felt almost protected by a blanket of calm that would wash over me, throughout the whole pregnancy. It was a very different experience to my previous pregnancies.
After the boys were born, we actually considered doing another round of IVF in the UK when we returned over the summer holidays. At the last minute, we decided not to. We were super happy with the boys, and each other, and it felt like the right decision. For me it was like a weight being lifted, knowing I would not be going through another stimulation and being in and out of the hospital every other day over our vacation. Instead we returned home and had the best summer, catching up with friends and family, and just having fun.
On returning to Singapore I felt a bit strange. I didn’t for one second think I was pregnant, but there was an old pregnancy test sitting on the shelf in the bathroom so I thought I may as well do it. I came back into the bathroom later and it was flashing wildly at me that I was pregnant! Needless to say I promptly messaged my doctor a photo of the stick to ask WTF was going on! All this time I had believed I couldn’t get pregnant naturally, but I went on to have our beautiful daughter.
My own journey very much inspired me to retrain, and I now work as a professional fertility guide. I was in such a dark place for so much of my own fertility journey – I felt scared, overwhelmed, anxious, broken and like a total failure. My whole life went on hold. I really stopped living. Through my own experience and transformation, I discovered that it doesn’t need to be like this. I found this out very late in our journey, but with the right support I could have got here much faster and had a completely different and more positive experience. To be able to experience the highs and lows, the ebbs and flows, the stressful moments of a fertility journey from a place of peace, where you feel calm, confident and clear – changes everything. So simply put, I help guide women to connect their mind and body, to heal at the root, and to balance their energy so they can live their best fertile life as they go on this journey. I do this through a combination of coaching, hypnotherapy, energy healing and mind-body tools.
I believe this goes hand-in-hand with medical fertility treatment. Mind-body work is only going to support you and your medicalised treatment plan. To go into any treatment feeling grounded, calm, connected to your body, empowered and confident in the decisions you are making, is hugely beneficial. Whatever stage you are at, whatever is happening right now, however stressful it feels, to know that you can experience it all from a place of balance rather than fear and overwhelm taking over, is incredibly powerful. Most of my own treatment decisions were made based on fear, so this would have been incredibly powerful for me personally at the start of my own journey! I’m a big believer in a holistic approach. We are not just physical beings. Our emotional, mental & spiritual parts of ourselves all matter and are all interconnected energetically, because this is what we are, energy. We have to look at our whole to create a fertile environment from the inside out.
I went through 8 cycles of IVF before I actually felt alive, like me, and in a place of wellbeing. If I could go back, I would pause, take a breath, allow myself time to feel and surrender to what was going on inside me. My body had all the wisdom, all the answers, everything I needed inside of me, I just needed to take the time to listen.
Genea can help you navigate your fertility journey. Visit www.genea.com.au to explore your options.