“To be honest, there’s not much that can be said to make the experience of infertility any less horrific,” says mother, lawyer and co-founder of Island Influencers Amie Crichton...
She’s right – infertility is not only heartbreaking but for many women, completely unexpected. We’re built to have babies, aren’t we? We’re not supposed to have so many roadblocks. Over a decade after having her first daughter as a single mother – she was 20 at the time – Crichton wanted to start a family with her husband James. But three miscarriages later and a traumatic surgery, they weren’t any closer to conceiving. At the age of 34, she decided it was time to try IVF. “IVF was a natural progression. For me, it also reflected a way to take back some control of a situation where I had felt so powerless, for so long. My fertility clinic also made the transition seamless. Their process and service is really second to none, and I’ve never felt quite as informed and supported,” she says. We spoke to the inspiring Crichton about her fertility journey, the grief of pregnancy loss and her career journey.
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Talk us through the beginning of your motherhood journey – when did you first start trying to have a family?
I have been blessed to be a mother from a young age, having fallen pregnant at 19 and giving birth to a beautiful daughter, Saskia, at age 20. Being a young mum was hard. I grappled with being young myself, a natural journey of self-discovery, and a desire to create a better future for me and Saskia; studying at university while breastfeeding, dating whilst trying to teach times tables, and a natural tension between wanting to give my daughter the best start to life and being young and doing what twenty-year-olds do. Fast forward six years, a law degree and I met my now-husband James.
Perhaps because of how easily I fell pregnant with Saskia, I just assumed that falling pregnant with James would be straight forward. James is five years younger than me too, so I traded love for time, sacrificing our start at trying to conceive so that he could feel more “ready”. We were also naively of the belief that timing was within our control. I had a plan (promotion) before a plan (lose weight get super fit, get on vitamins and fertility aids), before a plan (have a baby). This was all meant to happen in a six-month period, and voila, a baby in 2013. Little did we know that nature had another ‘plan’.
What were some challenges you faced in those early days?
Everyone’s fertility journey is unique and my pain point was not in falling pregnant – I was a master at that – mine was in keeping my little babes alive. We lost our first baby to miscarriage at seven weeks. I’d clocked cycles for months prior, spent thousands on fertility herbs, and knew very early on that we were pregnant – so it was devastating to then lose it all in a single moment. All of that anticipation and hope came crashing down. All the same, we chalked it up to a statistical prevalence and pushed on. It took my body about six weeks to normalise after that, but within another few months, I was pregnant again. The same joy and this time I picked it even earlier, recognising the familiar signs immediately. Fast forward eight or nine weeks and I started spotting. Beta tests confirmed that I was miscarrying, and I was heartbroken again. I distracted myself as best I could with work and just pushed on. It didn’t stop there though. Two weeks later at work, I experienced a sharp pain on one side of my stomach and started feeling dizzy. My boss suggested I head straight to my obstetrician-gynaecologist and he confirmed that I had internal bleeding with a suggested ectopic rupture and I was rushed to emergency. 12 hours later, I’d had emergency surgery, a confirmed ectopic and was minus one fallopian tube. To add insult to injury, during the procedure, my bladder tore from the previous emergency c-section adhesion, which complicated my recovery significantly. It was one of the lowest periods in my life and James and I were both quite traumatised by the experience. We paused at that point for about six months to take stock. I couldn’t bear it any more, it had become all-consuming. Days were characterised by basal body temperatures, vitamins, and hypervigilance in monitoring every symptom. It was almost seven months before we started again. By that stage, I was 34. We jumped back in the sack and sure enough, I was pregnant a month later. 10 weeks later, the familiar spotting started again… three pregnancies and three miscarriages.
What was the most daunting part of going through IVF?
The fear of it not working. IVF for many reflects the last vestige of hope and so the fear of it not yielding fruit is a terrifying one. The thought of never having the experience of a pregnancy or a baby again was just heartbreaking. Due to my particular fertility issues, we underwent pre-genetic screening to test the embryos before fertilisation. We were very lucky and of eight eggs were retrieved and fertilised, and we walked out of the process with three healthy embryos, two of which are my now baby boys. The needles are not a joy either, but absolutely worth it in the scheme of things.
Did it affect your relationships?
Infertility is all-consuming. Friends with babies and swollen bellies become painful reminders of what hasn’t yet become for you. You want to feel joy but your heart aches for your “turn”. It all feels like such an injustice. Each and every day is marked by fertility events, body clocking, sensations, and an irrational sense that everyone in the world is pregnant but you.
James’ and my relationship was also strained back then, in a way we didn’t appreciate at the time. A chasm of loss and pain had consumed our naive optimism. I felt so alone, and he felt so helpless. It wasn’t until later that I truly understood how much pain, loss and grief he was experiencing, and for me not sharing in that burden with him, is one of my biggest regrets. I just felt like he didn’t understand at the time, because at the end of the day, it was my body that I felt was failing. We survived though, and now we have our babies. Our love is different now too. It’s stronger and resilient. He has seen me at my absolute worst and been my rock through it all.
“ That two-week wait is always an emotional rollercoaster but definitely heightened when you know how close you are to having what you so desperately want ”
When did you conceive and tell us about the pregnancy?
I can still very distinctly remember the week of conceiving with our first baby boy, Noah. I had taken much of the week off after the transfer to rest and let my body and its bean do its magic. The day I found out, I was in the office and so emotional. I was convinced it hadn’t worked. That two-week wait is always an emotional rollercoaster but definitely heightened when you know how close you are to having what you so desperately want. On the Friday I found out, I left work to deliver a friend’s submission for the Archibald to the NSW Art Gallery. I saw the familiar number flash up and couldn’t bear to take it. Just after I had dropped the painting off, I saw the number ringing again. That was unusual, and so sparked a glimmer of hope, and sure enough, they were ringing with good news. I broke into tears in the middle of the car park, and even as I write this my eyes are welling up.
I’d like to say the pregnancy was easy but the first trimester for me was marred with fear. Every time I went to the bathroom, I expected to have miscarried. Every twinge, everything out of the ordinary, caused my heart to sink. Even at Noah’s birth, I was expecting to wake up from the experience and be reminded of that familiar loss. I still look at him as my miracle boy.
“ Just after I had dropped the painting off, I saw the number ringing again. That was unusual, and so sparked a glimmer of hope, and sure enough they were ringing with good news. I broke into tears in the middle of the car park, and even as I write this my eyes are welling up ”
What advice do you have for women going through IVF?
It is such a cruelty and it breaks my heart that so many women and families have to endure it. The tried and true reassurances of “it happened for a reason” or “it will come in time” just made me feel worse too. All I can say is that you are not alone. There is an amazing network of very inspiring women who have been there, continue there, and survive. I love that social media has brought that community together in so many ways. It’s powerful.
Talk us through Island Influencers – when did you start your business and how has it grown?
Me and my business partner (and Bali based PR extraordinaire) started the business circa 12 months ago. Since our early twenties, we have talked about going into business together, but the timing was never right. She asked me if I was keen and I was just about to give birth to my second baby, Axel. When he was about a month old, I decided I could manage and here we are. My primary focus has been on the legal, finance, tech and regulatory side of the business, whilst she brings the expertise in PR and marketing, and the connection to Indonesia.
The entire premise of Island Influencers relies on an ability to interpret data and analytics and share an influencer’s results with the businesses they are creating content for. This meant that our platform required an advanced technology backend build so the majority of this time has really been spent refining the code to streamline the UX. We’ve only launched in the Indonesian market a few months ago and the take-up has been encouraging. Businesses can immediately see the value in influencer marketing, and we’ve delivered incredible results for our initial clients and the business continues to grow from strength to strength.
I also, late last year, I launched my own specialist litigation and legal advisory firm, Crichton & Co Legal. I’ve worked in litigation and risk for 12 years now and whilst I was on the partnership path at a big global firm, the move seemed right to me. It means that I have been able to combine my professional background with a passion for business management, and at the same time, meet a need in the industry for specialist litigation expertise which is strategic and outcome-based. Having my own businesses also means that I have some flexibility around my family commitments, although admittedly I am working far more now than when I was an employee. Business ownership is truly a 24/7 gig. I love managing business though and being in control of my destiny. I think it’s where I am meant to be.
What makes an influencer a success?
There is no prescriptive formula when it comes to influencer impact, and that’s what makes the industry so extraordinary. We live in a day and age where fame is no longer reserved for the select few, anyone can engage an audience. And audiences are as wide and diverse as their muses. From a relationship perspective though, brands are wary of working with influencers who spruik products they clearly don’t buy/use of their own volitation; and equally, consumers will unfollow influencers who inundate them with sales-led content. This means that the influencer with interesting, authentic content, who only works with brands they genuinely believe in, will be far more successful in the longer term.