Despite the occasional insensitive "he just looked at me and I fell pregnant" comment and also what you might see on various Instagram feeds, fertility is rarely a straight-forward journey for many women...
And it has been anything but straightforward for nutrition and wellness advisor and founder of Krumbled Foods Keira Rumble, who has inspired women all over the world with her honesty and openness. Over the past five years, she has experienced four pregnancy losses.
What was your relationship with food and exercise like growing up?<p>All over the place. One of my earliest memories is of my gran and I picking raspberries in her garden up in the Blue Mountains NSW, we would then go into her little kitchen and make jam, to this day, raspberries are such a sensory fruit for me! I then fell out of love with wholesome food throughout my teens, which led to some serious health issues later on.</p>
You lost 25 kilograms over the course of two years – how did you do it?<p>Slow and steady! I was patient and listened to my body. By not following any fad diets I have been able to sustain healthy living through wholesome and nutrient-dense foods. I think the biggest lesson I learnt from my weight loss journey is that it isn't a one size fits all when it comes to fitness and "dieting".</p>
You skied quite competitively when you were younger…<p>I think the biggest lesson it taught me was self-discipline. I was away from my parents a lot at a young age, which essentially forced me to grow up quickly. When I had my accident skiing, my whole world was turned upside down. I was always really active so I found rehabilitation to be frustrating and confusing as a young teenager. I didn't realise it at the time, but it was an extremely crucial part of my life and has helped shape me for who I am today.</p>
What’s your approach now to health and wellbeing – what does a day on your plate look like?<p>Nutrient-dense meals that aren't overly complicated! My day on a plate is always varied due to me travelling a lot. When I am at home, I love eggs folded in with some baby spinach with avocado with lime or bruschetta on a nice slice of gluten-free bread for breakfast. Lunch and dinners are normally protein and salad/veg or some sort of hearty soup. I am also a big snacker, so I will always have veggie sticks and hummus in the fridge, and of course my <a href="https://krumbledfoods.com/collections/beauty-bites" target="_blank">Beauty Bites</a> for gut health and beauty benefits!</p>
Tell us about launching Krumbled Foods?<p><a href="https://krumbledfoods.com/" target="_blank">Krumbled Foods</a> is all about being able to fit into your lifestyle (and handbags), we focus on nutrient-dense functional snacks that are tasty and easy to take with you when you are on the go!</p>
What is the most challenging part of running your own company?<p>I put a lot of pressure on myself, so being able to switch off and focus on my mental health is both my number 1 priority but also my biggest downfall.</p>
And what’s the most rewarding?<p>Seeing women eat and love our products and being able to take my concept and turn it into a product that sits nicely on shelves.</p>
Have you always wanted to one day be a mother?<p>Yes absolutely! I am one of the cluckiest humans alive.</p>
You’ve tragically had four losses in five years– can you share your journey with us?<p>Over the past 5 years, I have had 4 pregnancy losses – 2 miscarriages, then my most recent one was almost a double whammy. It was a heterotopic pregnancy which was a dual pregnancy – one in the uterus which miscarried and one ectopic. All heartbreaking, however, my most recent losses in January really shook me to the core, partly because there were a lot of unknowns from the medical staff and how they handled my diagnosis and partly because I was much more aware of the statistics of having multiple miscarriage and infertility challenges. I felt so alone during each and every one of the losses and felt so ashamed with myself for what was going on with my body. I had no answers and was ashamed to ask for help.</p>
What will you never forget about going through multiple miscarriages?<p>There is a beautiful quote that says: "Sometimes the smallest things, take up the most room in our heart" ~A.A. Milne. This quote speaks volumes about how I feel about what I have been through, and I know a lot of other women would agree. They are never forgotten, but over time, it gets easier. I think pregnancy loss is becoming a more spoken about topic online, which is so beautiful, women deserve to not be ashamed of what they are going through.</p>
What happened after you had a heterotopic pregnancy - how did you heal your mind and body?<p>There was a lot of confusion about my diagnosis at the hospital, with them turning me back multiple times after my miscarriage, saying I was just "emotional" and to take pain killers and get counselling. But I knew deep down there was something physically wrong with my body, and I kept on insisting to get further scans. After weeks of me going up and getting sent home, I got another scan, where they saw blood in my stomach and I was rushed to the hospital. On my way up, they told me that I had been pregnant with twins. This hit home as I have always felt I was destined to have twins, so my heart broke even more. My emotional trauma from being made to feel that I was just "emotional" was something I really struggled with. Through meditation, self-love and a lot of research to try and understand why this had happened, I am slowly healing my mind. Some days are harder than the others.</p><p>Physically, the battle is still at the front of my mind. Due to the hospital waiting so long to take action, my fallopian tube ruptured, causing me to have surgery and my left tube removed. I was in hospital for 4 nights and came good after about 3-4 weeks. As a result of surgery, I am now challenged with chronic pelvic pain on my left side, my ovary is stuck to my uterus causing significant discomfort. Which is hard, as it is a nice friendly reminder of the surgery and loss most days. I have been taking it slowly for the past few months, doing Pilates and long walks which has done wonders for me.</p>
What advice do you have for women who have experienced something similar to you?<p>Speak up, trust your gut and you are not alone.</p>
Where are you in your journey now?<p>My fertility is an ongoing issue, and I have decided to take a little break from my journey to motherhood for a good year or two.</p>
We Talk Motherhood, Perinatal Depression & Anxiety With CEO Of The Gidget Foundation Australia, Arabella Gibson
The Gidget Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that needs to be more of a household name in Australia. Supporting the emotional wellbeing of expectant and new parents, it provides vital resources and support for women, men and families experiencing perinatal depression and anxiety...
Arabella Gibson is the CEO of The Gidget Foundation and a mother of twins. She has experienced firsthand the emotional and physical rollercoaster having children brings, and has a lot of realistic and thought-provoking tips on how to manage the daily juggle of work and kids while prioritising mental health and wellbeing.
You’re a mother of two twins – how did you get support in the pre and post-natal period?<p>When I was about 25 weeks pregnant, I couldn't walk more than 10 metres without either being in extreme agony from a dislocated hip or vomiting from the constant Hyperemesis Gravidarum I was affected by! It wasn't pretty – I was limping whilst clutching a plastic bag at the ready, everywhere I went. It was then that I realised we were in for a rough road! The hormones were already playing havoc with my body which simply wasn't built to carry two babies, two sacs and two umbilical cords. Earlier that year, my husband had donated some funds from our family business to a local preschool to support their fundraiser. The head of the P&C also happened to be a GP and, as my luck would have it, she was a mother to triplets! She wrote to my husband upon hearing of our impending twins and said that he must under ALL circumstances throw as much money as possible at as many resources as we could find! Living on the other side of the world in London with no family around at the time, I was grateful for this sound (and necessary) advice. Needless to say, my husband said that he wanted us to remember the good times of having tiny babies and so we had a lot of support, particularly at night when it was trickiest.</p>
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?<p>Been easier on myself. Not rush so much. Enjoy the moment more. And I never would have done sit-ups had I realised that I had a 12cm separation of my stomach muscles! But that's another story.</p>
As a CEO and mother, how do you keep the wheels turning?<p>I'm not quite sure but I am annoyingly organised.</p>
What are your top time management tips?<p>Look after your staff. All the time. Compliment them and build them up. People who feel valued will always do their very best. And a great team makes a leader excel. Give more than you take. Always. And in everything you do. Understand the numbers. Go through line by line so you know every single aspect of your organisation. It's the little things that matter. Write thank-you notes. Recognise small wins. And value collaboration beyond everything else.</p>
What do you prioritise and what do you let slide?<p>I don't let much slide but annoyingly lately I feel like I've let my fitness slide. It's time to reprioritise! My mum told me a great piece of advice the other day, she said, "Invest in the people who will be at your funeral." It's a bit morbid, but it's true. We invest so much in many and never enough in those who we are closest to.</p>
You’ve said you used to be very much a ‘yes’ person. How have you learnt to the power of “no”?<p>I still struggle with saying no because I don't like to disappoint so instead I try to move the goalposts so that I can achieve things in a more manageable timeline!</p>
Why do you think there is shame associated with perinatal depression and anxiety?<p>Because people are afraid to admit defeat or what they may think is failure. There is a lot of denial around perinatal depression and anxiety. It's actually the braver and stronger person that asks for help. We need to change the stigma around PNDA so that instead of feeling shame, those that speak out, feel pride.</p>
In 2018, you hiked 135km’s from Cape to Cape in WA to fundraise for the Gidget Foundation – tell us about this experience?<p>It was the best thing I did that whole year. And I am going to try and do a similar hike every two years. It was so cathartic. It was very tough but there were some very funny and very emotional moments too. I highly recommend it to anyone interested. You can find out more <a href="http://moveformentalhealth.com.au/" target="_blank">here</a>.</p>
You’ve said: “I am regularly not present” – something we can all relate to. How do you deal with mother’s guilt?<p>I just tell myself that it makes my children more resilient when I mess up! For example, I forgot to finalise my daughter's online school lunch order this week so she went without lunch. Instead of just being hungry she had to problem solve. She asked her brother to share some of his lunch and then visited the school office to see if they had anything to offer her! I decided that rather than feeling like a terrible mother, I was proud that my daughter hadn't fallen apart and gone hungry! It's all about how you view things. Glass half full or glass half empty!</p>
You often refer to Oscar Wilde’s words: “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”. How does this quote influence your mood/wellbeing?<p>This quote reminds me to value humour in my life. And it makes me feel happy in my own skin.</p>
Can you share with us a story that stands out since you started?<p>This email says it all: <em>Hi,</em> <em> </em> <em>I'm in the pub having lunch and your TV ad with the woman at the sink and the dad at the clothesline came on.</em> <em> </em> 1) <em>A bunch of burly blokes took it real serious, and the mood in the room chilled for a while. It's a clever and accessible message.</em> <em> </em> <em>2) I nearly cried, it could have been my family</em>….<em> Rather it was. My kids lost their mum because we never got onto it successfully.</em> <em> </em> <em>Thank you, keep it up, and good luck.</em></p>
What are some of the symptoms we should be aware of?<p>• Inability to enjoy activities you previously enjoyed<br>• Unable to concentrate, make decisions or get things done<br>• High arousal level and irritability<br>• Physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, constant headaches, sweaty hands<br>• Feeling numb, hopeless and remote from family and friends<br>• Feeling out of control, or 'crazy', even hyperactive<br>• Unable to rest even when the baby is sleeping; tired on awakening<br>• Nightmares and/or flashbacks of difficult birth events<br>• Avoiding situations that remind you of the birth<br>• Thoughts of harm befalling yourself, baby or partner<br>• Feelings of guilt, shame, or repetitive thoughts<br>• Feeling trapped or in a dark hole or tunnel with no escape<br>• Feelings of grief, loss, anger, tearfulness<br>• Feeling lethargic or hyperactive</p>
There’s a lot of pressure on women to “bounce back” after the birth of their children – how did society get it so wrong? Why is there still so much stigma attached to perinatal depression and anxiety?<p>We need to be more real. There is a stigma because people are scared. Those who do 'bounce-back' are the first to 'advertise' it and therefore those that don't 'bounce-back' feel a sense of failure. We have to embrace our imperfections because they make us who we are.</p>
How do you personally tackle feelings of anxiety or feeling blue?<p>It depends on the time of day. Sleep is critical for me! If I am burning the candle at both ends, then the wheels can fall off quickly. I try hard to get eight hours every single night. If I just need a lift then I turn on upbeat music, really loud! And exercise is a huge mood booster of course, so I walk the dog when I can.</p>
How can we all support new mothers more?<p>I think 'listening' is really underrated. There is much said about asking people how they are, how they are feeling, are they ok but rarely will someone tell you how they genuinely feel. Through simple, normal conversation, we can pick up on someone's tone and their general feelings simply by listening carefully. That then opens up the opportunity for genuine communication. Go for a walk with a mum. I guarantee that both you and she will feel better after getting some fresh air in the sunshine.</p>
Whether I want kids is a secret I keep from myself – it is the greatest secret I keep from myself...
The thing to do when you're feeling ambivalent is to wait. But for how long? Next week I'll be thirty-seven. Time is running short on making certain decisions. How can we know how it will go for us, us ambivalent women of thirty-seven? On the one hand, the joy of children. On the other hand, the misery of them. On the one hand, the freedom of not having children. On the other hand, the loss of never having had them – but what is there to lose? The love, the child, and all those motherly feelings that the mothers speak about in such an enticing way, as though a child is something to have, not something to do. The doing is what seems hard. The having seems marvellous. But one doesn't have a child, one does it. I know I have more than most mothers. But I also have less. In a way, I have nothing at all. But I like that and think I do not want a child.
Even when tantrums abound and any our houses resemble war zones made of spaghetti, most of us are acutely aware of how lucky we are to have our children. Personally, it takes approximately five minutes of my children being asleep for me to pull out my iPhotos to gaze at them again.
But I have perhaps never felt more grateful to have my children than in listening to the remarkable story of Anna Buxton and her incredible children. While very few of us have a straightforward path to motherhood, there are few stories that would be as winding and spectacular as Anna's.
For those of us who aren’t familiar, can you please explain what surrogacy is? And in particular, the two different types of surrogacy?<p>Surrogacy is where a woman carries and gives birth to a baby for another couple or a single person.</p><p>There are two types of surrogacy, gestational and traditional. Gestational surrogacy, most commonly what people are referring to today when talking about surrogacy, is when the egg comes from either the intended mother or an egg donor, and the sperm is from the intended father, or a sperm donor. There is no genetic link to the surrogate. Traditional or straight surrogacy is the use of the surrogates' egg and the sperm from the intended father, or donor. So, there is a genetic link to the surrogate.</p><p>In any surrogacy arrangement, as prospective parents, you are always referred to as the "intended parents".</p>
Can you share the journey that led you to explore surrogacy as an option? Particularly your health diagnosis and the operations you had to undergo?<p>Like all women who turn to surrogacy, it was after a long, painful and complex gynaecological and obstetric history. Ed and I got married in December 2011, I was 32 and Ed, 34. We both wanted to try for a family straight away, and so set to it! Three months later, I was pregnant and we were thrilled. At that point, I didn't have many friends who had struggled with conception but none the less, we felt lucky that it had all seemed so easy. At about six weeks, I had some bleeding and cramping and so went for an early scan. The doctor told me that we were still pregnant and they detected a heartbeat. I was asked to return two weeks later for another scan to check the heartbeat. I can still see the change in the look on the doctor's face as she performed the scan. The heartbeat was no longer detectable, I had had a miscarriage, specifically a missed miscarriage because my body had not miscarried the pregnancy. I had to return the next morning to have an ERPC (Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception) under general anaesthetic. The procedure was painful and upsetting but it was over quickly and I could return home knowing that I could look forward. A week later I was still in terrible pain and knew something was not right. I returned to the hospital and a scan revealed that the surgical procedure had not removed all the pregnancy tissue and that it would have to be repeated. Another general anaesthetic, another upsetting procedure but finally it was done. We were told that as soon as I my period started we could try again. The next month we were pregnant. It was the same month that we moved into the house we had bought after getting married and it all just felt right. We put the miscarriage behind us and excitedly looked forward to a new home and a new pregnancy. Given my history, I decided to have an early scan at eight weeks. Once you have miscarried, that fear of losing a pregnancy never leaves you. I lay on the bed looking at the doctor's face as she started the scan and I saw that look again. I knew there was no heartbeat. We were devastated. 24 hours later I was back in the compression tights and backless hospital gown being put under general. A week later, I recognised the same pain as I had previously and again another operation was required. In only four months, I had conceived two pregnancies, had two miscarriages and had four surgical procedures. Ed and I were exhausted.</p><p>Although two miscarriages, under NHS Guidance, is not considered recurrent miscarriage, we knew that we couldn't risk getting pregnant again and having the whole process repeat. We wanted to know if there was something, either me, or Ed, or the combination of the two of us, that was making us prone to miscarriage. We went to a specialist in recurrent miscarriage and had the usual tests that might indicate why we were miscarrying. Everything came back normal but the consultant was concerned about me having four ERPCs in such quick succession and so wanted to perform a hysteroscopy. This is a procedure whereby a doctor uses a small camera, past through the cervix, to view the uterus. I was diagnosed with Ashmerman's Syndrome. The formation of adhesions, or scarring, in the uterus which meant that my periods stopped because the scarring prevented the lining of my womb from developing each month. Left untreated, it can be very difficult to get pregnant because an embryo does not have a healthy lining in which to implant. Over the course of 16 months, I had five more operations to remove the scarring from my uterus. It was a very difficult period because we were in this awful cycle of operation, wait three months to see if there was any improvement, operation, wait, repeat. Having a baby had once felt so normal and achievable. It now felt a very long way away.</p><p>After each operation, the scarring would reform and after the fifth procedure, my surgeon said that he could not operate again. The damage to the lining of my womb had been too severe and he felt it wrong to put me through any more surgeries. Our only hope was to do a round of IVF. The theory being that the extra hormones of the IVF might stimulate my lining to develop and if that was the case we could transfer an embryo to my uterus with the hope that I'd be able to carry a pregnancy. We started IVF but my lining never grew to more than 1mm (doctors like to see a minimum of 7/8mm) and we were informed that it would be a waste of an embryo to transfer it back to me. The embryos were frozen and the doctor told us that the only way we could use our embryos was with the help of a surrogate.</p>
What about your experience with IVF?<p>IVF is hard. Ed and I did six rounds of IVF to have our three children. We did rounds in London, India, London again and shipped embryos to Canada and then finally the US. The needles, the appointments, the blood tests, the internal scans are all unpleasant but for me I found the loneliness of IVF the most difficult part. Every round I did, I did without telling me colleagues at work. For two weeks, I would have to pretend that everything was normal despite the daily surge of hormones coursing through me. After the collection, I jumped every time the phone rang thinking it might be the embryologist with news of my precious embryos.</p><p>I think one of the cruellest but equally remarkable parts of infertility and IVF, is that the more negatives you have, the more failed IVF rounds, the more negative pregnancy test results, or miscarriages, the less you can ever believe is going to happen for you yet you do find the strength to keep trying. I cherish that strength and reserve I found during this journey and when something isn't going quite right now, I remember I'm capable of more than I think.</p>
How did your mental - and indeed your physical - health struggle in this time?<p>Physically it was a very challenging time. The endless procedures and hormones meant that I never felt like myself. Mentally, it was a battle. Some days I felt like I was winning but others I lost. For a period of time, I suffered from panic attacks. I just didn't know how I could continue to get up each day and be a wife, a friend, a colleague, a sister, a daughter when I was carrying so much pain and disappointment.</p><p>I was also angry. During this time, all my friends and my sister were also trying to have children. As the years went on, friends became pregnant, bumps appeared and blossomed, babies arrived and second pregnancies quickly followed. I remember that look on friends' faces when they awkwardly and apologetically would tell me they were pregnant. Friends didn't want to share their concerns about their pregnancy or their excitement about their babies. I was angry, angry for me and Ed that were weren't pregnant, and angry that this thing was not allowing me to the friend I wanted to be.</p><p>What kept me going was my relationship with Ed. Infertility of any kind changes you as a couple. That level of pain and anxiety can never be forgotten but the resilience, the patience and the strength you find together ends up defining your relationship.</p>
Was surrogacy immediately a consideration? Or did it take some soul-searching to arrive at that point?<p>The conversation around surrogacy started with our doctor. Given that we had viable embryos and that I had been categorically been told I could not carry a pregnancy, surrogacy was the next natural step for us. For any women, surrogacy is not a choice, a luxury or the easy option. We felt very lucky to live in a time and a country where surrogacy is an option and that there are women in the world who want to be surrogates.</p><p>It sounds strange but we were lucky in that we were told 100% I could not carry. For lots of couples, turning to surrogacy can be a much longer and harder decision. If you aren't told definitively that you can't carry a pregnancy, rather that you may not be able to, and given that surrogacy is still shrouded in misinformation, it can just be a much more difficult decision. The reason I speak so openly about my experience is to make that decision-making process just a little easier for others.</p>
What are some of the reasons that an individual or a couple might start to explore surrogacy?<p>For heterosexual couples, there are many medical reasons that mean surrogacy is necessary such as cancer, uterine issues, unsuccessful surgeries, multiple IVF failures, early menopause or genetic disorders. A single person might use a surrogate if they want to have a baby but don't have a partner. And for male same-sex couples, surrogacy is the only option for a baby that is biologically linked to them.</p>
Can you share a little bit about the legal implications of surrogacy in the UK, and why this led you to India?<p>In the UK, it is legal to have a child through surrogacy, but, you can't advertise for a surrogate and a surrogate can't advertise to be a surrogate; also, there can be no commercial brokering, i.e. a third party cannot provide a matching service for-profit and thirdly, you cannot pay a surrogate a fee (over and above any expenses she will have incurred during pregnancy) to be a surrogate.</p><p>Also in the UK, a surrogacy agreement, or contract is unenforceable by UK law. And, at birth UK law treats your surrogate as the child's legal mother; if she is married or in a civil partnership, her husband or partner, is your child's other parent. If she is not married, your husband or partner, can be a legal parent. Essentially the law is very complicated but who the biological parents are plays no part. Both the surrogate and intended parents can feel exposed.</p><p>The result of these two issues is that in the UK there are many more intended parents than surrogates. There are two main charities, Surrogacy UK and COTS, who help intended parents and surrogates meet, and Brilliant Beginnings, a not-for-profit organisation. These are three wonderful organisations who have helped many couples but the waiting times to find a surrogate can be very long. When we started looking in the UK, we were told that we would wait between 18 months – 3 years to find a surrogate and then would need to spend 1 year to 18 months getting to know each other before we could go ahead with any arrangement. We didn't have a friend or a family member we could ask and after everything we had been through, and I was 34 and being reminded by doctors of my ever-increasing age, we decided to look at our options abroad.</p><p>The US is the most well-established destination for surrogacy. Surrogacy in the US is regulated by state law, which means it differs state by state. Some states, such as California, have fully-fledged surrogacy friendly laws offering an airtight legal framework. Before a baby is born, the intended parents are named as the legal parents and the intended parents are named on the original birth certificate. Combined with the fact that agencies can match surrogates and intended parents, and that surrogates can be paid a fee, in addition to expenses, means there are many more surrogates within a more regulated environment. Given all of this, the costs in the US are very high which meant that it was not an option for us.</p><p>India was a good option because surrogacy was legal, regulated and well established. However, I had read both positive and negative press about surrogacy in India. Ed and I agreed that no matter how much we wanted a family, that could never be at the expense of another woman's well-being. So, we researched and researched. We spoke to lawyers and charities here in the UK, we found couples who had done it and we went to India and visited 10 clinics in three cities, as well as more charities and lawyers. We found a doctor and a charity in Delhi that were doing amazing work in terms of supporting surrogates and their families, it was a holistic programme centred around bettering women's lives. We returned home happy and excited about India and decided to go for it.</p>
We’d love you to tell us about your surrogacy experience in India, and ultimately, the arrival of your daughter, Isla.<p>We were matched with our surrogate Chaphala by an agency and doctor and were then introduced via Skype. Once we had all decided we were happy to move forward and had finalised the legal requirements, we started the IVF stimulation process in the UK, and then flew out to India to have my eggs collected and the embryos created. It was at this time that we first met Chaphala in person. I remember our first meeting, we were both so nervous! I was so worried that she wouldn't like us and she felt exactly the same. But as soon as we started talking about families, about her children and about our want to build a family, we chatted happily and it felt right.</p><p>We flew home after the transfer and all we could do was wait for the blood test two weeks later. For two long weeks, you can't do anything but just wait and wonder if another woman thousands of miles away is pregnant with your baby. Then the call came… Congratulations!</p><p>We received weekly updates from the doctor and Chaphala via email and every two weeks, Chaphala would have a scan and the results were again emailed. Because the communication was so regimented, I realise now with hindsight, that it made the pregnancy easier. I still worried every minute of every day but I knew that I just had to get through each week and wait for my updates. Thankfully, the pregnancy was uneventful and at 38 weeks we fly to Delhi for Chaphala's final scans, appointments and then of course to be there for the birth.</p><p>After Isla was born, we had to live in Delhi for six months while we waited for her UK passport. Delhi is not an easy place to live, let alone with your first baby, but we were finally a family.</p>
We are so intrigued to know about the level of involvement you can have/wish to have in your surrogates’ pregnancies. How much of a ’say’ can you have in what they do? Their environmental factors, their food, their lifestyle, and so on?<p>I always tell people that you should only consider surrogacy if you think you can put all your trust in another woman. I don't think it is appropriate or respectful to try and stipulate how your surrogate looks after herself during the pregnancy. I have met many surrogates over the years and what they have all had in common is that they are dedicated mothers. I believed that both our surrogates would care for our pregnancy in the same way they cared for their own, and that they did.</p>
Pregnancy is such a time of immense worry for women. How did you manage this when it was somewhat out of your own hands?<p>I didn't! Having never been pregnant, I can't compare that worry but for me our two pregnancies were tough. Knowing that your baby, or babies, are in this world, albeit in utero, and that you aren't there for them, that you are thousands of miles away is a very difficult concept to describe. I would never downplay how hard a surrogacy pregnancy is. The highs are so high, your first scan, hearing that heartbeat, getting to each milestone is immense. You are 100% emotionally attached to that baby yet physically you are totally removed. Yes, you can do everything you can to support your surrogate but tangibly you have no role, or control, in the pregnancy. It is hard.</p>
When did you decide you wanted to give Isla a sibling, and what led you to the USA?<p>When we started to think about a sibling for Isla, India had stopped allowing foreigners to have children through surrogacy. The UK was not an option because one charity had closed their books to intended parents and another was only taking on intended parents who didn't have children. We felt that the US was our only option and we specifically wanted to go to California – largely regarded at the most surrogacy friendly state in the US and therefore the world.</p><p>In the US, you need an IVF clinic and separately a Surrogacy Agency, as in the US it is legal for an agency to match surrogates with Intended Parents. We were recommended a wonderful IVF clinic in San Diego and so also looked at Surrogacy Agencies in that area as well. Finding a surrogate in the US is a bit like dating! Surrogates write a profile, you write a profile, and if you match, you go for it! Obviously, it is much more complicated than that – much of the profiles are about finding someone who is aligned with you on pregnancy-related factors such as do you share the same views on invasive tests if deemed necessary by a doctor or views on terminating if advised. And then also, your expectations for your relationship during the pregnancy and after the birth of your babies. All these are really important, but the most important factor is ultimately respecting each other. Once you've seen a profile, if the surrogate agrees you meet over Skype. We spoke to a number of women but when I first met Holly, I knew she was the one. You can't tell from one phone call if someone is perfect, but I knew I liked her, I liked her reason for doing surrogacy, her husband joined the call and was supportive, and her children knew – for them, it was a family affair. She had a large support network of friends and family who all supported her. Given how far apart we were, that support network was really important to me.</p><p>On our trip to San Diego to create and freeze our embryos, we were able to meet Holly and her family. We had arranged to meet for brunch between our hotel and were they lived. And so one Sunday morning, we turned up at a diner off the 805, me, Ed and Isla and there was Holly, her husband and their three children. On the surface, we didn't have much in common but once we got chatting – family, food, the weather – we didn't stop for hours!</p><p>After that first meeting, we were all excited to move forward and committed to doing so. It is a complex process but we were surrounded by highly experienced medical and legal professionals in surrogacy and about six months later our embryos were transferred to Holly.</p>
What was the experience like in the USA, throughout the pregnancy and then ultimately the birth?<p>People often talk about the two-week IVF wait, from transfer to the blood test to find out if you are pregnant. It is very hard, and with surrogacy, you have two couples waiting for that result and your friends and family who are also waiting. Day of the test result, the email came through to me and Holly – congratulations we are pregnant! A few more blood tests all of which were looking very positive and then at eight weeks we had our first scan, two babies and two heartbeats!</p><p>The pregnancy was relatively uncomplicated in terms of medical issues, although given that it was a twin pregnancy Holly had many more scans that we had experienced with Isla's pregnancy. For most appointments, the doctors were happy for Holly to call me during the scan so that I could hear what was happening in the appointment, hear the heartbeats and just feel connected throughout. Compared to our pregnancy with Isla, in the US it felt closer because we had more means of communication but this also meant more stress! Because California is eight hours behind the UK, Holly knew to WhatsApp as soon as she woke up so that I wouldn't worry. She was amazing at managing me and my need for constant updates and reassurance.</p><p>One of the things that Holly and I loved to talk about was our birth plan. We had it all agreed and worked out. Holly and I would be together, Ed and Isla would be waiting next door and Holly's husband and children would be nearby. As soon as the babies arrived, me, Ed and Isla would get to spend time with the babies, Holly could be with her family and then as soon as she was ready we would bring the babies back to her to meet her and her family. It would be the two complete families of five in one room! Then at 34 weeks, the day I'd stopped working and a week before we were due to fly, Holly went into labour. I got a call from the doctor saying, "Anna I don't want to alarm you but we are doing a C-section in 20 minutes". An hour later, two nurses called to say they were the NICU nurses responsible for our babies that night and did they have names. I managed to get a flight out to San Diego the next morning and was with Olive and Art about 18 hours after they were born. It was so far removed from what Holly and I wanted, but both the babies and Holly were healthy, and for that, we will be forever grateful.</p><p>As a new family of five, we stayed in San Diego for two months and enjoyed life in Southern California. Although surrogacy is a well-trodden path in California, the paperwork is still very complicated, from agreeing on the medical insurance to applying for American passports. The stay also gave us the opportunity to spend time with Holly and her family. We all felt it important for her children to see us with the babies, the family they created, and appreciate the magnitude of what their mum had done.</p>
How did it feel when you first held your babies in your arms?<p>I'm not sure I have the words. It felt like every dream I have ever had had come true. It felt magical.</p>
Tell us about life now with Isla, Art and Olive.<p>Hectic, noisy, messy and truly wonderful. I still pinch myself every single day that we have Isla, Olive and Art. That we were fortunate enough to have found two remarkable women to help us create our family feels like a miracle. Surrogacy reminds me every day how good people can be.</p>
Do you feel that the fact your children were born through surrogacy changes the relationship you have with your children at all?<p>No! However your children are brought into this world, whether you are genetically linked on or not, I believe has no impact on your relationship. When you finally have your children, however you do, you realise that the ones you have are the ones you were meant to have and the journey to get there finally makes sense.</p><p>Of course, honesty is key. From before Isla could understand it, we have talked about how she came into this world and continue to do so proudly, repeatedly and consistently. She knows that my tummy is broken and so another mummy helped us by growing Isla in her tummy. And, we are doing the same for Olive and Art.</p>
What do you wish you’d known when you first started the process of trying for a family?<p>Never did anyone suggest it was my fault but I went through this whole journey feeling like it was my fault because it was my body which had failed. I always felt guilty and sad that Ed would never see me pregnant and that I was less of a woman because of it.</p><p>If I knew then what I know now about what it means to be a mother, I don't think I would have felt like that. To me being a mother is about being there every day for my children, doing the best I can every day, probably making mistakes every day, but being there for them. I wish I hadn't carried that guilt for such a long time.</p>
What advice would you provide to individuals or to couples who may be thinking about surrogacy?<p>Being a surrogate is an extraordinary gift and sacrifice. Whether you are doing surrogacy with a friend, independently or with the help of a charity or agency, you cannot short cut the process. Everyone needs to be emotionally, medically and legally informed. Spend the time to get to know each other, talk about all your expectations and surround yourself with experienced professionals who can help guide you through the process.</p><p>Surrogacy has given me the family I always dreamed of, profound respect for my relationship that I will always cherish and I have come face-to-face with the generosity of women that makes me smile every day.</p><p><em>Anna has given up her 20-year career in investment management to help others on their journey to parenthood. Working with the San Diego Fertility Center, the clinic where her twins were conceived, Anna supports couples navigating surrogacy. For more information, you can reach Anna on Instagram @anna3buxton or email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.</em></p>
On face value, Brigitte Warne was living a blessed life. The Sydney-based model and entrepreneur was the picture of health and wellness, from the bouncy blonde hair to the effervescent glow and tanned limbs of someone who actually enjoys going for a run outside (apparently, they exist). She had a degree in Health Science and Commerce, a thriving modeling career, and a hand in establishing a number of fledgling international businesses. She was married, and life was good.
After coming off the contraceptive pill, Brigitte experienced an eight-month battle with unexplained symptoms ranging from acne to nausea and headaches, hair loss, and amenorrhea. While she was initially dismissed by doctors, eventually she was diagnosed with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). "It was a mix of feeling like my body had failed me, feeling ashamed and also frustrated, but also relief that I finally had an answer", Brigitte says of the diagnosis. But along with the clarity of knowing what her condition was, came the news that she would likely not be able to conceive naturally.
Talk us through your fertility journey. When you decided to start trying for a baby, what was your experience?<p>My experience really started when I was diagnosed with PCOS and was told I would not be able to have children naturally. Hearing those words really spurred something inside me that instantly made me realise I wanted to have a baby of my own so much. Previously to that I had never really thought too much about having kids. I always thought I would be a mother one day, but it was almost like I needed to hear I wouldn't be able to, before I really knew how much I wanted it.</p><p> It was at that point that my fertility journey really became more of a journey of wanting to understand why I was experiencing these symptoms of PCOS, and focus on treating the root cause of my symptoms, rather than just focusing on falling pregnant.</p>
How did you react to being diagnosed with PCOS? Did you think you'd never be able to have children?<p>Honestly it was shocking. It was a mix of feeling like my body had failed me, feeling ashamed and also frustrated, but also relief that I finally had an answer as to why I was experiencing severe acne, hair loss, anxiety and an absent menstrual cycle.</p><p>Being told I wouldn't be able to have children naturally was a whole different mind game. Looking back it would have been easier to believe the doctor and take the synthetic hormones I was being offered to 'kick start' ovulation and mask my PCOS symptoms, but something inside me told me that I needed to take the time to really listen and learn about what my body was trying to tell me. I thought if I could work that out, there might be a chance I could still have a baby naturally. Despite my doctor telling me that wouldn't be possible, something in me told me not to listen.</p>
What made you decide to try a natural route to healing your body?<p>I have always been drawn to natural and holistic remedies. I have a degree in public health and health promotion, and am passionate about the concept of 'prevention rather than cure' when it comes to health and wellness. So I think although part of me just wanted to take the medication my doctor was prescribing me, as I knew it would probably be the 'quicker' solution, I also knew in my heart of hearts that I needed to take the time do my own research and seek out advice and information so that I could make an informed decision.</p><p> Ultimately after spending hours tirelessly researching what PCOS was, speaking to holistic practitioners and looking at alternative treatments, I felt comfortable that with the right support behind me I would be able to find natural alternatives to help manage my symptoms and actually address the root cause, rather than mask it through prescription medications.</p>
What do you think were the key factors that helped you conceive?<p>I think what really helped me was taking the time to understand what was actually going on in my body, and that my symptoms of PCOS were my body's way of telling me there was an underlying issue and hormonal imbalances that needed to be addressed.</p><p>I also think that really understanding ALL the aspects of my PCOS puzzle, rather than just focusing on one or two things was crucial to helping me conceive. This included looking at my diet, physical and mental stressors, nutritional deficiencies, the right herbs and supplements, learning how to track my cycle and cervical fluid, and removing environmental toxins.</p>
Did you consider more medicalised treatments like IVF?<p>Jesse and I did discuss the possibility of doing IVF. I personally didn't think I would be emotionally able to go through with IVF, and it did worry me. I had a few friends who were undergoing going IVF treatments at the time and I thought the extra stress would be too much for me.</p><p>However we both agreed that even if we did go down the IVF route down track, I still wanted to take the time to really get my body in optimal condition to prepare for pregnancy and have a healthy full term pregnancy.</p>
Can you tell us about the moment you found out you were pregnant?<p>Oh gosh I remember this day so vividly. It actually took me a lot longer than expected for me to find out I was pregnant. Jesse and I had just got back from a trip around South America. We had been home for a couple of weeks and I started to feel really unwell. I started to worry that I might have picked up some weird illness while we were away, but I brushed it off.</p><p>However a week later I started to get sicker, and I thought maybe I will just get a pregnancy test to be 100% sure that I wasn't pregnant (I had also just had what I thought was a period too, so I really didn't think I was pregnant but just to be sure!) Well, I did the test and it came back negative, so that took that out of the equation.</p><p>I will still perplexed as to what was wrong with me, I felt absolutely exhausted and very unwell so I went to the doctors and she was really concerned that it might be something serious. She organised for me to have some blood tests done and told me I would get the results back in a week or so, and they would call me if there was anything wrong.</p><p>A week later I got the call that I urgently needed to come back in. I was so worried because I assumed that meant that I had some horrible disease. Instead I was hit with the very unexpected but incredible news that I was pregnant! I was completely shocked and overwhelmed and I think I kind of just didn't really believe her.</p><p>Because we had no idea how pregnant I was, I booked the next week for a dating scan and was greeted by the even more shocking news that I was nearly 10 weeks pregnant! So I had a lot of things I had to get my head around, very quickly!</p>
Once you'd fallen pregnant with Flynn, did you have to manage the pregnancy any differently due to PCOS, or did pregnancy 'cancel it out’?<p>I don't believe that falling pregnant 'cancels' PCOS out, and since women with PCOS do have a higher risk of miscarriage and gestational diabetes I did need to be conscious of that, however I just made sure I ate a really healthy diet and stayed active and I had no issues at. In fact I absolutely loved being pregnant!</p><p>My doctor did suggest that I take the gestational diabetes tests twice (which is recommended for all women with PCOS), however I decided not to do two and was completely fine.</p><p>I also have an inverted uterus, which just meant we had to monitor Flynn's position in the early stages until it eventually tilted forward, and also found out I have a condition called rhesus factor (a negative blood type) which is managed through a series of injections of Rho(D) immune globulin (RhoGAM).</p>
What inspired you to launch your Cysterhood tea?<p>I was basically inspired to create Cysterhood tea because it was something I wanted myself – selfish I know! I was getting such great results using herbs, but I was starting to lose motivation to buy, measure out, and then consume so many different herbs daily. I figured there must be a way I could safely combine them all, and still get all the therapeutic benefits – and from there Cysterhood tea was born!</p><p>I began trialling lots of different versions of the tea at home, and once I was finally happy with it, I worked with a naturopath to ensure that the herbs were in the perfect ratio and that every herb had a purpose. It was really important to me that there were no 'fillers' and that Cysterhood was the highest quality product on the market.</p>
Do you hope to have more children in the future? If so, is there anything you'll do to assist the process?<p>Yes! I would definitely like to have at least one more baby. I think I will do the same sorts of things that helped me the first time, making sure I am eating a really balanced plant based diet, reducing stress as much as possible, continuing yoga, taking my herbs (which are now all in my Cysterhood tea so it makes my life a lot easier), acupuncture and tracking my cycle. Although I don't know how easy doing all of that is with a child and two businesses to run!</p>
Do you think the natural treatments you've used can work alongside more traditional methods like IVF, or is it a one or the other situation?<p>Absolutely! I think it is <em>so</em> important to remember that there are so many things we can do increase our fertility and overall health in the hopes of falling pregnant – no matter what path we each go down to get there.</p><p>According to research, food and lifestyle changes alone can actually help to boost fertility by up 69%. At the end of the day our bodies need to be in optimal condition to not only fall pregnant, but also have a successful pregnancy to term, so supporting our bodies with great diet and lifestyle choices is one of the best things we can all do.</p><p>Whether you have just started to think about having a family, are currently undergoing fertility treatments, or you have been trying to conceive for some time, please don't lose hope. There are so many things you can do to help increase your chances of falling pregnant, no matter what path you take!</p>
"I'd always had a strong sense of social justice and been aware of the privilege I had been born into in a middle class family in London. I knew I wanted to use the opportunities I had to do something that made some kind of difference or had an impact on other people's lives," says Joanna Maiden.
What drew you to Kenya the first time?<p>I had an amazing opportunity to visit Kenya as part of my work with the Ethical Fashion Forum. One of the senior members of the team had fallen sick and couldn't make the trip and so I was offered the spot. My husband joined me as the photographer for the trip and we both fell in love with Kenya immediately. There was so much to fall in love with… the warmth, energy and vibrancy of the people, the colours and scenery, the buzz of the cities and overall the feeling that this could be a place where I could make a difference. I had the opportunity to be a link between the wealth of the West and the dynamic can-do attitude of this amazing developing country.</p>
Did you always intend to stay? Is Kenya home permanently or are you splitting your time (aside from travel restrictions!)<p>No, initially we came for 7 months to 'try it out' and we expected to be in Kenya for a couple of years…we've been here for over 11 years now! Before my daughter started school we would divide our time 50/50 between Kenya and the UK. When she turned six we had to decide between London and the Kenyan coast. Our children had spent the majority of their lives outside and barefoot and the thought of putting them in an urban school environment while they were still so little didn't feel right of us. For now we're spending school terms in Kenya and Christmas and the summer in the UK.</p>
What ignited your interest in ethical fashion?<p>I had an 'ah ha' moment towards the end of my Fashion degree when I realised that it may be possible to connect my longing to support social justice and poverty reduction with my love of all things fashion. As part of my university dissertation, 15 years ago, I decided to research the fashion industry supply chain and I quickly learnt about the lack of transparency in the industry and the huge challenges around labour and the environment. This was the start of my path and I'm so proud to have spent the past 11 years working to now employ over 100 people through our ethical factory and providing training and washable sanitary pads to thousands of people in our community.</p>
Where does family life come into this - did you already have children prior to the move to Kenya or did you start your family once there?<p>My husband and I moved to Kenya together and 4 years later we had our first child. We now have three children, Daisy, 6, Bertie, 4 and Bonnie, who is 6 months old. For Daisy and Bertie we returned to the UK for their births but with Bonnie and the logistics of schooling and travel she was born in Nairobi. We rented a beautiful apartment on the edge of a forest. We put the children to bed and a few hours later Bonnie was born in a water pool in the bedroom with my husband and two amazing midwives.</p>
What's your mission with SOKO?<p>I believe the fashion industry can be used as a force for good. I have spent the past 11 years building a company on this foundation. I am passionate about producing high quality clothing that also improves the quality of life for my employees and the community. We pay living wages, cover medical costs and free pre-school to enable our team to provide for their families, and lift themselves out of poverty. Career progression and the belief that individuals should have the opportunity to aspire to growth in their role is really important to us. We use solar power and collected rainwater in order to reduce our impact on the environment.</p><p>Through my community trust I am passionate about providing girls with support, skills and knowledge to enable them to have a stronger foundation for a bright future. Our Stitching Academy provides a 4 month training course in sewing skills and life skills.</p><p>Our Kujuwa Initiative uses fabric waste from the factory to produce washable sanitary pads. These are donated to school girls as part of an education programme for girls, boys, teachers and parents about sexual health and menstruation.</p><p>The key to our success and the future of our work is my team. SOKO Kenya would be nothing without the dedication and commitment that my team have. It has been an amazing journey seeing people who joined me 11 years ago with very little formal education and no previous formal employment now leading teams of 30 people.</p>
For the uninitiated, what are the starting points you would recommend to make the shift to a more conscious consumption of fashion?<ul><li>Buy clothes you love, will cherish, and know you will wear season after season (consider spending a bit more money as the investment in quality may mean you're more likely to take care of them)</li><li>Swap clothes with friends to give them a second life</li><li>Consider renting clothes – this is such an exciting new avenue for the industry, it ticks the box of having something 'new' whilst not risking the garment gathering dust on your shelf</li><li>Buy vintage/secondhand – there are so many sites that make it easy – I've spent many an hour scrolling through Depop</li><li>Take care of your clothes – follow the wash care instructions #lovedclotheslast</li><li>Wash clothing at low temperatures and line dry (large amount of impact of fashion comes from heating water and tumble drying)</li><li>Do a bit of research for brands that are committed to transparency and sustainability in their supply chains – buying from them will also give you a feel good factor! One brand that I currently love is Mother of Pearl – they've just done a really affordable collaboration with John Lewis</li><li>Never throw clothes in the rubbish bin… donate them to charity. For old socks or stained clothes put them in a separate bag and these can be up-cycled.</li></ul>
What are you most proud of with your work with SOKO Kenya?<p>Michelle Obama has worn clothes made by us a number of times. This has filled the team and myself with so much pride. The first time she wore an outfit made by us my team didn't believe me and thought a 'proper' factory (to use their words) must have produced the same garment. It's been wonderful to see the connection between our small rural factory and the global fashion industry with clothes made for brands from retail with ASOS.com to luxury with Suno.</p><p>Personally, I can see the positive impact SOKO Kenya is having in people's lives through the jobs in the factory and the training through our Community Trust. Women are able to leave abusive relationships, women earn the money to give their children nutritious meals and send them to school, girls are empowered through training and receipt of washable sanitary pads to stay in school and have a brighter future. I couldn't ask for more.</p>
A glance at your Instagram shows some of the challenges you've faced - from floods to managing quality control - what's the biggest challenge you've faced with SOKO?<p>I think the biggest challenge being the founder of a business is the weight of responsibility. At the end of the day those responsibilities for my team's livelihoods sits on my shoulders. There are so many things that I love about what I do but in the dead of night when things are tough and I can't sleep this responsibility can feel like a heavy burden.</p>
What do your working days look like? Do your children attend daycare and how do you make it all work?<p>The shift from two children to a newborn has been a hectic one, and then add in a house move and global pandemic. Some days I feel like I'm nailing it and others I look at my clothes, eyebrows and childrens' matted hair and realise we are far from nailing it! A few weeks into the pandemic hitting Kenya and schools closing down, my husband was hit by malaria and spent a week in bed. Thankfully malarial medication and doctor support is easily accessible here but while he was in bed going through hell I was in another kind of hell trying to keep on top of kids, work, the house and torrential rain that involved our factory flooding. I actually laughed out loud a few times as I looked down on the chaos that was around me realising this was my life.</p><p>In normal life my 6 year old daughter is in school, my 4 year old son is in part-time nursery and my 6 month old baby spends her days between me and our nanny. Our nanny has worked for us for 6 years and when social distancing is over we'll all be welcoming her back with open arms!</p>
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected you - both your company and your family life?<p>When the pandemic first hit Kenya there were rumours that the country would quickly go into lockdown. My finance manager and I had to quickly calculate how long we could cover people's salaries if we were to be forced to close. Thankfully, to date the factory has been allowed to stay open but with very strict regulations of distancing and hygiene standards.</p><p>Our charity, SOKO Community Trust runs a number of projects. One of our projects is the Stitching Academy, a sewing training school that trains women in the skills they need to gain a job in a clothing factory. In Kenya very early on all schools were closed and so my charity's work had to close. </p><p>As an organisation we wanted to use the skills we had to support the local community through this pandemic and so with my management team we quickly came up with a plan. The factory team began making masks using dead stock fabric, and received funding to make 20,000 masks for distribution. Masks are now mandatory in public places in Kenya.</p><p>The charity team through our project the Kujuwa Initiative scaled up production of our washable sanitary pads (using waste fabric from our factory). We are now distributing thousands of hygiene packs around the country. The packs include 4 masks, a sanitary pad, liquid hand soap and visual flyers about COVID-19. The liquid hand soap is made by a community group and we have gathered, to date, over 3,000 used plastic bottles to give the bottles a second life as soap containers.</p><p>Kenyans have the most amazing ability to always look on the bright side of life. They work through so much hardship with positivity and resilience. The economy is in a difficult place the world over but in Kenya where poverty levels are so high already and there is little infrastructure to support those in need and we are all very concerned what the next few years look like.</p><p>Our personal lives have turned upside down…. Right now my husband and I are alternating work and homeschool between us. My days involve a baby on one arm, setting a Zoom school meeting on the other, while trying to think through a work challenge that needs to be resolved. </p><p>I feel very privileged to be safe and financially secure which I'm aware, especially in Kenya, is a luxury. I'm getting to spend so much more time with my older two children and our baby is spending 100% of her time surrounded by her older siblings – this all feels very precious. Of course, there are days when I could tear my hair out but I know I will look back fondly on our isolated time together.</p><p>An upside of Covid-19 is the fashion industry as a whole, and shoppers in general, seem to be more conscious of how they spend their money, the impact clothing has on the planet, and sustainability, and that's something we have been championing for the past 11 years. Seeing it enter the mainstream more and more is really encouraging!</p>
What's your favourite thing about life in Kenya?<p>The people. A year into my time in Kenya, the house we were renting burnt down due to an electrical fault. We lost lots of things that were precious to me – jewellery from my honeymoon, books, clothes with so much history etc. As someone who is very sentimental I found this really hard to get my head around. I went into work a few days later and one of my team dropped an envelope on my desk. It said 'Sorry Jo' and inside was £15. The small team of 10 people had done a collection to support me. They all knew that I was financially secure and the huge financial gap that existed between my life and theirs, but they still chose to give money to support me. There is so much for me to learn even 10 years later from the love, self-sacrifice and support they showed me on that day.</p>
What do you miss most about the UK?<p>I have always called myself a city girl (though that may not be true anymore!)…. I love the anonymity, creativity and energy of London. Whenever we are back I feel like it fills me up a bit and reenergises me.</p>
You've produced a sustainable collection for ASOS and had your clothing worn by Michelle Obama. What's been your biggest 'pinch-me' moment career wise?<p>In April 2019 we moved from a small factory we had built 6 years earlier, to a new rented space that was three times the size. We had gone through a big relocation process as it involved our team moving nearly 3 hours away from their homes. During the process we didn't know who would move with us as this was a big ask for the team. 100% of our team (bar one lady) chose to move and stay with us. This was a huge, very humbling moment for me – SOKO Kenya is built on its people and for them to show their commitment to stay with us was beyond what I could have imagined. On the day we moved, I sat in my empty office (I'd never had my own office before) of our new factory and couldn't quite believe this business was the one I'd started 11 years earlier with 4 people. I felt so excited about creating all the new jobs to fill that space. </p>
What's been the biggest challenge raising your family in Kenya?<p>It's undoubtedly been being away from close friends, family and my home roots. Babies and children change every day and photos and videos can't ever replace cuddles and time together.</p>
Do you subscribe to the 'village' philosophy when it comes to parenting?<p>I honestly believe that it takes a village to be a human! I'm so grateful for all the people that are in my life for me as a woman… some are mum friends, some are people to bounce work ideas with and some are just Jo banter friends who make me laugh. If I didn't have them I wouldn't be able to function.</p>
What's the best advice you've ever received?<p>There are two things and they're both very straightforward but when you really take them onboard they're life changing.</p><ol><li>Trust your gut – whenever I haven't done that and have doubted myself I've always regretted it.</li><li>You only regret what you don't do – if you're trusting your gut, do it!</li></ol>
What does the future hold for you?<p>A year ago we moved into a new factory space with the aim to start producing for a handful of new brands and create more jobs. Pre-pandemic we were working on a rebrand and new website to start to put ourselves out to the world. When the pandemic first hit I questioned if now was the time to really do this… I decided to trust my gut and go for it so in the next few months we will be opening our doors to hopefully start working with some new brands.</p><p>Through the Kujuwa Initiative our aim is to support girls to have the same opportunities as boys, and to feel empowered to dream big and imagine a world full of opportunity. In sub-Saharan Africa one in ten girls miss school due to their period – this is due to lack of sanitary products and stigmas around menstruation and embarrassment. We have been distributing our washable sanitary pads and providing training in the community for 3 years now. Our hope for the future is that we can massively upscale our work. We are looking to create international partnerships with brands, investors and organisations to support our work of pad distribution and education in the community. We have distributed 5,000 pads so far but this is a drop in the ocean!</p><p>When people get in touch asking how they can help my answer is: please champion us. Buy the clothes we produce, talk about what we're doing, spread our story and you never know what connections might be made through a conversation you have.</p>
What's your morning routine?<p>With a baby I dream of a reasonable morning routine! Right now it involves a wake up between 4am and 5.30am from a smiley baby, ready to play. I turn the light on, put some toys in front of her and try to sleep (which mostly involves closing my eyes and getting my hair pulled!). At 6am (on the dot) I hand her over to her dad until 7.30am when I get up, make porridge for everyone and start the day.</p>
What's on your list of loves?<ul><li>When I was pregnant I started swimming regularly and have kept it up since. The repetition and noise of the water are so meditative and really clears my head.</li><li>The Letdown on Netflix is bringing me so much joy. I would love to be her best friend!</li><li>I love Jojoba oil as a body moisturiser and eye makeup remover – I buy it from a Jojoba plantation close to us and the smell is amazing!</li><li>I love my linen bedsheets that my mum bought me for Christmas – I've now declared that I'll never sleep in anything else!</li><li>I love good quality dark chocolate – I'm saying that because we haven't had any for at least 3 months now as we normally stock up when we go back to the UK and with the pandemic we're stuck for now.</li><li>I love making Kombucha – I've been making it for a few years now and for my birthday my husband bought me a load of new kit to up production. I find the process of making it therapeutic.</li><li>@talgalasko dancing on instagram – her style and her moves!</li><li>I love an evening walk with the kids to a guava tree, to see if there are any ripe fruit to pick – the light at that time of day in Kenya is amazing.</li><li>After a tough day I love putting Shake it off by Taylor Swift (judge me if you will) on really loud and dancing around the living room with the kids.</li><li>I love playing Rummikub – it just really suits how my brain works. My whole family refuse to play it with me because I spend too much time trying complex moves.</li></ul>
Ask any woman who has been through fertility treatments, and they will likely tell you that the hardest part is the waiting and the unknown...
Which is why any technology that can lessen that emotional load is welcomed with a huge sigh of relief. Case in point? Genea's world-leading IVF technology, which not only includes an embryo incubator (which has been proven to increase the number of high grade embryos created each cycle), but also contains time-lapse cameras, so Genea can capture photos and videos of each embryo as it develops. Sent directly to patients through the Grow by Genea app, it's a welcomed addition to many couples' fertility journey.