Fertile Mind Fertile Body

With a new outlook on life, Vanessa Bernardo allows nature to take its course.

Being told at 32 you have half a uterus, one polycystic ovary, a single kidney and a sprinkling of endometriosis is somewhat confronting. This information was delivered over a series of appointments, sometimes by kindly doctors who offered tissues as the inevitable tears arrived and sometimes by scientifically motivated types, who were positively thrilled at discovering such a rare condition. I almost felt compelled to congratulate them, but the fact this meant I might never carry a baby to term stunted my enthusiasm.

My husband and I enjoyed our twenties, spending many months and dollars travelling the globe, attending soirees, living by the beach and climbing the corporate ladder with the adrenaline buzz big-city living brings. And just because we were ready to start a family didn’t mean my body was.

As the shock wore off and we were able to process the facts of my condition, we knew we had some priorities to adjust and decisions to make. Yoga became my solace. Originally a means to quiet my mind, it became the catalyst for a journey of deep discovery. A few months later I quit my high-stress job, as it was clear this was not helping my fertility. It was almost an excuse to leave a corporate role that left me nothing of myself at the end of each day. I felt absolute relief.

Coinciding with my new outlook, my husband and I spent many days walking along the beach talking through each scenario, and almost as many nights curled on the sofa sharing our feelings and a bottle of wine. There were tears, but in the depths of shock and sadness we were surprised to find laughter, promise and clarity.

If we couldn’t have kids, we would be the cool aunty and uncle who spoiled the children in our lives with gifts and trips to the zoo. We would be babysitting angels and saviours to our stressed-out parenting siblings and friends. It dawned on us we could travel and spend selfishly, living a life we hadn’t considered. We agreed we would investigate IVF and fertility treatments, but adoption and surrogacy weren’t for us. If our path didn’t lead to children, then it would not define us. It would simply be a rebirth, just of a different kind. The experience brought us closer, and we were grateful to realise we could withstand the first real challenge to our relationship. We would be okay, whatever the outcome.

Our short-term solution before starting IVF was to travel. We wanted to explore this beautiful country of ours, inject some lightness into our life and remind ourselves we are tiny beings in a massive universe with miracles all around us. So we hired a campervan and set off for three months.

Eight weeks in and my breasts felt heavy, I starting snoozing at the oddest hours and couldn’t stomach the smell, let alone taste, of meat. The last four weeks of our trip were spent in a hazy euphoria as we shared our pregnancy secret with the mystical surrounds of the outback. But otherwise we held our miracle close, almost too scared to talk about it aloud in case it was snatched away. Our fears were never realised, and we are expecting our first baby any day now. For us, the greatest gift came when we let go, calmed the mental chaos and simply accepted the wisdom of something greater than ourselves.