There is no shame in doing IVF - you’re not a failure, you’re not broken and you don’t need fixing
Hope Whispers is an interview series that features experts from around the globe alongside regular women talking all things fertility. Hope Whispers aims to inspire and grow a community of women who learn and grow from each other's stories and struggles and the wisdom they find along the way. When you want to give up, Hope Whispers, try one more time. This week I interviewed Nicole Joy about the ups and downs of her five year fertility journey and why she attributes the holistic approach as being the key to her success in falling pregnant. We also look at the shame of doing IVF when you’re a wellness health professional.
Name: Nicole Joy
Occupation: Wellness Entrepreneur, Essential Oil Advocate, Speaker, Author and passionate woman looking to make a difference living life on her terms.
What’s your favourite quote?
At the moment it’s ‘Just trust’. We can get so caught up with wanting to know how everything is going to happen and it can feel so overwhelming. It’s a gentle reminder from the universe - ‘Nicole, you’ve got this, don’t stress, trust the process and surrender’.
What’s giving you the greatest joy right now?
The greatest joy right now is feeling the little kicks of my baby girl. Most mornings I cry with joy when I feel this!
What’s your favourite book and why?
I have so many but the book that is relevant to this conversation and the one that allowed me to go through IVF with a clean slate was Anita Moorjani’s ‘Dying to be me’. It’s the book that got me out of my head– when I was thinking I can’t do IVF, and put all of those awful chemicals into my body to the place of – yeah I can, that’s just what I need to do, it’s not going to ruin me. An absolute game changer!
Who are your biggest mentors?
I love looking up to and listening to people who do amazing podcasts, write fabulous books. Nat Kringoudis, Ange Peters. I don’t have one as I literally open myself up to all the amazing women who are on this earth. I have close friends and family who are mentors and I feel very fortunate to have a large network of women who have given me lots of snippets of wisdom.
Were you surpised by how your community reacted to the announcement of your pregnancy?
I couldn’t believe the amount of support I received since announcing my pregnancy and even before that when I opened up about my IVF experience. The community I have is amazing – the sincere genuine private comments from people who didn’t even know me. When I did my gender reveal video on Instagram, I had women message me saying they were crying in the middle of the shopping centre when they heard the news. I had people who said they have been following me since I started on Instagram 8 years ago and they celebrated as much as I did. There was a crazy amount of comments after I announced my pregnancy and it’s been so beautiful. I love asking questions on Instagram, things like ‘when did you first feel movement?’ ‘What must have items should I get?’ Apart from me getting some great advice, it’s also been helpful for so many women to get on there and read all the comments too!
You have been open on social media about doing IVF. What were your thoughts about doing IVF?
I had this feeling - here’s me on my social platform, miss natural, low-tox, healthy eating etc. and this goes against everything I’ve always said. There were comments from people in the health profession, whether they were naturopaths, nutritionists or wellness professionals who said ‘You don’t need IVF if you eat well, meditate etc etc’. Those kinds of comments I’m sure were well meaning, but they actually make you feel like a bit of a failure. When the fact of the matter is, we are incredibly fortunate to have that available to us and how lucky that we can use it. I didn’t say anything on social media for a long time because I bang on about using essential oils, doing this for your health, exercising etc and here I am having to do IVF. That’s sad and I know that if I felt it, there’s thousands of women that feel it too. I hope talking about it more allows more women realise they are not a failure because they have to do IVF and modern medicine is there for a reason. Why not take advantage of that?
What was the turning point that gave you permission to start IVF?
At first I didn’t think I had a strong enough desire to do it. So I fell back into ‘Well I don’t want it anyway.’ I reckon there was a good 12 to 18 months in the midst of it when it got really tough and I shut off from everything. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t want kids anyway until one day during a meditation I decided to write a letter to my unborn child. I literally had pen to paper and I got out ‘I’m really sorry…’ and I just lost it. It was heart-breaking, earth-shattering because I realised, I actually do really want this. So that was the turning point for me. I’m a massive believer that you need to uncover, deal with and process the emotional traumas and situations in your life before anything physical can change. The physical comes from the emotional. Even the decision to do IVF, I needed to come clean with myself and admit that I actually really wanted this.
Do you believe there is a stigma attached to women who work in the health and wellness industry resorting to IVF because it’s not the ‘natural approach?
I do and it’s not a blatantly obvious stigma. If you are a figure in the industry who is known as the ‘natural person or the healthy person’ or whatever and I’m not saying it only comes from external – a lot of it came from me too and it was my own stuff but I feel like you don’t really hear people in that arena talking about how they went through IVF or how to support yourself naturally through IVF because they don’t need it. That’s why I was so overwhelmed by the response from my community because when I opened up about it I literally had so many messages from women saying ‘Thank god someone is talking about this and this needs to be discussed. So many women are made to feel as if they are cheating if they are doing IVF. That’s why I’m so passionate about talking about it because I don’t want people to not give themselves the opportunity to start a family just because they don’t want to do IVF. Hopefully try to start to diminish that stigma so women don’t even feel it and they can literally say ‘oh well, I need to do IVF, so let’s just get on with it’.
You talk a lot about the holistic approach, can you tell us about the importance of taking a holistic approach to IVF and pregnancy?
Yes for me meditation was key and still is so important. I’ve just started another meditation course today with Emily Fletcher because I’m committed to cementing that practice into my life – not just for me, but for bub as I know she’s going to reap the rewards if Mum is meditating. Just get an app just do ten minutes– there is Headspace, Calm, Insight and they are so easy because they are guided and that’s what I believe you need when you start. If I can say anything about meditation, I would say the goal is not to stop thinking. So many people think I need to stop thinking. Stopping your thoughts is like getting your heart to stop beating. It’s involuntary. It’s about making space amongst that and quietening that noise down. So many people meditate once and say it didn’t work for me. You don’t go to the gym once and expect to drop 10 kilos. It’s a lifestyle practice and the number one thing to do is to carve out space in your day to meditate.If you say you don’t have time to meditate, that means you need to meditate more than anyone – that’s just an excuse.
Food is another important part of the holistic lifestyle. I definitely don’t have a label to the way I eat. I just like to eat wholefoods that don’t come in a packet or a box or have preservatives or ingredients you can’t pronounce. I do have gluten, dairy and eat meat and I go through phases of not eating certain things but that’s just me being in tune with my body. Meal planning is a huge part of staying on track with that. If you have take-away 3 or 4 nights a week or have toast the other nights the week, meal planning will help you have a healthier choice. It’s when you don’t have something in the fridge that you go “UberEats” please. If you set aside some time on the weekends to make a plan, go shopping - you’re literally set. And lastly taking responsibility for what you put into your body.
I also love my essential oils – I have rituals and wake up in the morning with Frankincense and Wild Orange when I meditate. I use Balance which is a grounding blend which I pop onto the soles of my feet.
The other important thing to do is to not say yes to everything when you’re going through IVF. You want to look at your calendar and see lots of white space. Say no to other things and say yes to yourself.
Don’t fall victim to I don’t have time to exercise. It can be as simple as going for a walk. I live near the beach and I say to myself just do something. If you’re not going to make time for yourself during IVF, it’s probably not going to be an positive experience. So meditation, movement, wholesome foods and space for you to be you is crucial.
How did you cope with the emotional ups and downs of your fertility journey?
Lots of tears. It was five years in total. After a year of trying we sought some ‘natural’ support taking supplements, herbs, acupuncture and all the stuff. We did that for around two years and still nothing. That’s when everyone around us was getting pregnant and I started to get Judgey McJudgey against people who I thought, shouldn’t be “allowed” to have kids. And I really open up about that in my podcast. I went through a real angry period and I had to really work on that. After 3 years of trying naturally we went and saw a medical doctor and they said you need to do IVF. I was like, “nup that’s not for me.” I dug my heels in and for a good 12-18 months I lied to myself about not wanting kids before realising that I needed to work on myself. My biggest thing with processing and dealing with the emotional stuff is don’t pretend – you need to feel what you need to feel. The only way to move past it, is to feel it through. A big revelation for me was when I had this lingering feeling of ‘what have I done to deserve this’? And this voice in my head or whatever came to me and it was ‘You didn’t do anything, it is what it is’. Literally upon hearing it, the tears dried up and I realised I didn’t do anything. I’m not being punished, it is what it is. That was such a powerful revelation to me.
What essential oils did you use to support yourself emotionally during this time?
There is a blend called ‘Console’ – it’s a synergistic blend that is like getting a hug. That oil is blended to help you feel comfort and reassurance and those times when I was crying my eyes out and couldn’t stop crying. No, Console didn’t take my problem away but it held space for me and it was incredible to have these oils in my toolkit. I used the oils as emotional support rather than using them to help me hormonally or fall pregnant. Frankincense and Balance to help me feel grounded and more zen-like which is exactly what you need to feel more of on this crazy and unpredictable journey.
What has been the greatest lesson for you on your fertility journey?
Surrender. I’m that person who has a million things on the go and likes to have control over everything. This was the one thing I couldn’t control in my life and that took a lot of getting used to. It’s almost a precursor to motherhood because you lose control over everything, (so they say!) Surrender and trust because when you do that, it’s not a fight anymore. It makes the journey so much more comfortable.
What is the one thing that every woman who is currently doing IVF need to know?
You’re not a failure, you’re not broken, you don’t need fixing. You’re just receiving a little help from a system that we are incredibly fortunate to have access to. There is no shame in it whatsoever.
What are three things you are grateful for in your life right now?
1. Little bub growing inside of me.
2. My husband who has just been so incredible throughout all of this. From looking after to me through morning sickness to waking up in the middle of the night to me saying ‘Hey she’s moving!’.
3. I’m grateful for my community. It’s such a supportive, beautiful community and even though I don’t know them personally it’s just incredibly beautiful to know they are there.
Nicole has just released her own podcast Becoming Mum where she talks about being a first time Mum - the real, honest and vulnerable stuff that women who are on the journey to motherhood need to know. Whether it’s IVF, morning sickness, sleep habits, hypno-birthing - it’s a great resource for women and their partners.