The quest to fall pregnant after 35 is undoubtedly a hopeful one; I still feel young and my world is that of the millennials –globalisation, interconnectivity and social media allow us all to inhabit the same space, with little regard for the vagaries of age, and our broader horizons mean that fashion, travel, political activism, personal fitness (whatever your bag is) are no longer age-specific.
And with so many fertility options – Chinese herbs with their side effects of brighter eyes and skin, acupuncture, a delicious organic diet, more sex – I leapt into the quest with dedication and passion. Like countless women, however, weeks turned into months, months into years and my dedication started to puncture into despair. At 39, I made the decision to try IVF, but this uncharted territory threw up diagnoses like an ailing tomcat: “unexplained secondary infertility”; unconfirmed Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. After a year of testing and a diagnosis of Hypothyroidism (hey at least I had something!) I fell pregnant and rushed to tell everyone the exciting news.
I will never forget the furrowed brow of the sonographer at the dating scan seven weeks later. His expression and silence could only mean one thing. Devastated, I went home and cried. I had told everyone – this was going to be excruciating. The next day I battled through a day-care centre photoshoot with 80 toddlers, babies and preschoolers.
When my grief subsiding, I considered trying the final fertilised egg, but I just could not bring myself to embrace that pain again. There was always a wedding to photograph, family portraits to take, more 40th birthdays parties, then Christmas… when I finally got around to it nine months later in January, and faced with the 8-10% reality of a successful pregnancy did not leave me with much faith.
I decided that if I could not have a baby I may as well try and get the best body a forty-something girl could have. I needed to do something just for me, that was all about my health and prioritising my well-being. I considered kickboxing, but when I found Sydney Pole, I knew that this was it.
Routines to learn, performances to plan and preen for… it was perfect. I was hanging out with younger women, buying matching crop tops, creating outfits, wearing stilettos and having so much fun! The physical gains came quickly, with noticeable weight loss and sculpted toning, balanced out with storm coloured bruises and really sore arms! But I focused on learning the routines so I could perform songs and keep up with the 20-year-olds in my class.
It was invigorating and consuming, and it took my mind far away from the frustration and pain of having failed to fall pregnant. I was also meeting women who wanted beautiful boudoir portraits so I installed a pole in my photographic studio at Tortuga Studios in St Peters. Now I had somewhere to practise, I was learning more by photographing beautiful strong women, from beginners through to the teachers, and I increasingly dedicated myself to my new sport. Plus I had my six-pack back and was fitting into a size 8 again!!
Then something amazing happened. I performed for the third time for my girlfriends, proudly doing an inversion and sliding down the pole to Alice Cooper’s Poison – followed by chilled champagne and much celebrating.
The next day I went to the doctor and found out I was pregnant! At 42! My baby will be born next year and I will be 43. The secret to this longed-for pregnancy was focusing on something else, getting fit and enjoying myself again. But I seriously believe that pole dancing got me pregnant. My new-found body confidence, my acceptance into a discipline no longer the domain of younger women but accessible to all and brimming with youthfulness, no matter your age, and the chance to absorb myself in something totally new, without being haunted by the ghosts of failure combined to create something magical. A baby.