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Karenna Wood, founder of Your Fertility Hub, shares her secret to success and opens up about the reality of being an ordinary mum and an entrepreneurial business owner. From an office in her shed to chasing rogue prams down the street, nothing will stop her on her mission to break the taboo around the silent heartbreak of infertility.

Your Fertility Hub is designed to get people talking about fertility. According to Karenna, infertility affects up to one in six families; she calls this the silent heartbreak.

“It’s still a taboo,” she says, “there’s still a stigma and no-one is talking about this. There’s research to show that those going through infertility have the same levels of stress, anxiety and depression as people with a terminal illness. It is that serious.”

Karenna, 35, and her husband, Lee, emigrated to Perth from England in 2011. They now have three children: Isla (6), Ellie (4) and Jack (10 months). Her background in Childbirth Education, HypnoBirthing, HypnoFertility and as a Fertility Coach since 2012 has given her direct insight to the consequences of infertility. Karenna’s altruistic nature is evident in the very foundation of Your Fertility Hub, which came from a desire to support other women when they feel emotionally drained by this condition.

“I’ve seen how dangerous it is when we compare ourselves with others. We need to be real, and we need to be vulnerable.”

“Too often the focus is solely on medical reasons for infertility, but mental health and stress is so important in understanding this condition,” Karenna says. Her wealth of knowledge is evident as she discusses how stress hormones are produced in the same part of the body as reproductive hormones.

“So if you’re stressed,” she says, “your body goes into survival mode and thinks it’s not the right time to conceive—and it’s the same with birth too. Your body doesn’t do what it’s naturally designed to do.” Karenna is clearly fascinated by this link and she’s keen to get women talking about fertility as it’s an issue which so many still shy away from.

“Infertility is a temporary situation. It feels permanent but it is temporary. There is a way to become a parent if you keep going.”

Through Your Fertility Hub, launched in 2017, Karenna has coached 121 women and says that receiving those pregnancy messages and baby pictures is “just the best”. Her passion is evident as she says, “It’s so special and such a privilege to be with these women and I feel so close to these families that I’ve had the opportunity to work with. And what’s so important is that infertility is a temporary situation. It feels permanent but it is temporary. There is a way to become a parent if you keep going. I am the luckiest person in the world to do this job and it lifts my soul.”

Karenna explains, “It’s heartbreaking when everyone around you is getting pregnant but I’ve seen how dangerous it is when we compare ourselves with others.  We need to be real, and we need to be vulnerable. That goes for all women.”

The aim of Your Fertility Hub is not just to help individuals but also to educate society at large to be more sensitive. She says, “People think it’s ok to ask women when they will hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet. I’ve had clients literally run out of the bread aisle of Coles because they can’t bear that conversation.”

It may come as a surprise to learn that Karenna does not have her own fertility story. She candidly reveals that she felt like a fraud when she first started out in this industry, “I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Everyone else had suffered through infertility and could share personal experience. I just couldn’t get out of my own head.” It was her sister that reframed the situation saying, “You don’t choose a heart surgeon because they’ve had heart surgery. You go to them because they have the knowledge and skills you need.”

Learning from her many clients, Karenna has developed an abundance of wisdom in this area. She has found, “For me it works better because I’m not trying to compare my story and fit in with them. And it’s not about going backwards and dwelling, it’s about being positive and moving forwards.”

This is a lesson that Karenna has put into practice in her own life. She has been supported by her husband who pointed out that everyone starts somewhere. She recalls his encouragement at the beginning, “He said, ‘There you are. You have one Instagram follower, now you have eight, now ten.’” Karenna now has more than 1,000 Instagram followers. “So, she says, “for any mums out there who are thinking they couldn’t do what I do, don’t compare my middle to your beginning. Just give it a go, because you never know until you try.”

Your Fertility Hub has grown from humble beginnings, “When I started out, I made a space in my shed that I literally had to climb into. It looked great on camera, but I was surrounded by boxes. Too often we see images on social media which aren’t real. I’m a hot mess most of the time, but you don’t see that part of it when you are comparing yourself to others.”

“It’s hard with the baby as well”, she says, “ The other day I’d done the school run and got the baby back in the car. Then I’m driving off and on a call with a client in New York and there’s my pram, rolling down the street next to me because I’ve forgotten to put it back in the car! Argh!” she laughs.

Karenna says, “Juggling it all is a daily battle, basically. I work early in the morning and late at night. When I try to work when the kids are around, it doesn’t work. But it’s about snatching bits of time and valuing my business enough to get childcare when I need it, even if the business isn’t paying at that point. And to put effort in to the stuff around the edges, like the social media, that isn’t necessarily the service that you offer but it’s important.”

With no extended family in Perth, being organised and using available tools helps Karenna to manage the day-to-day aspects of motherhood whilst running a home and a business, “I’ve got a two-week meal plan and I get the food delivered direct to my bench. That, and I use childcare when I need it.

“Both my girls will be in school from February so it will be working around five nap times and how much work I can get done whilst Jack is sleeping. I often get to the end of the day and I’m crying because I’m over-tired and I feel like I’ve failed the kids because I’ve been saying ‘just a minute, just a minute’ all day and I think, God, I could have done that better. Like all mums do.”

Karenna’s authenticity is tangible as she is honest about the challenges of being a Mumpreneur. However she doesn’t value self-pity saying, “I’ve got a little phrase stuck up in my kitchen which says, ‘Tomorrow is a new day. Try again.’” It’s in line with her philosophy for fertility treatment as she reiterates the benefit of building yourself back up and then moving forward. To do this in business, Karenna advises, “Find your tribe. You don’t have that water cooler chat, but it’s important to have a support network of other mums doing the same as you.”

“I do have those crazy days where I just think this would be so much easier if I just worked in an office!”

After a bad night with the kids, Karenna has a good cry in the shower and then gives herself a slap before focusing on gratitude in her journal, “Writing changes how you think about things. And being grateful for where you are right now means you are starting from a better start point. Just go outside and feel the sun on your face; notice the little things.”

Karenna is grateful that she gets to be there for sports days and swimming carnivals saying, “That’s what’s important to me. I do have those crazy days where I just think this would be so much easier if I just worked in an office! Then I wouldn’t have to work late tonight and be kept awake wondering about Pinterest…but then I couldn’t be there in my kid’s lives the way I want to be.” Joking about the challenges of motherhood aside, it is abundantly clear that Karenna’s family is everything to her. And she wants to bring that joy to other women across Australia and the world.

When considering the future of Your Fertility Hub, Karenna smiles, “An App is coming soon. This will include a monthly membership where people get even more support and contact with me. The next step is gaining pre-registrations so that I can launch the App.

“I’ve got big dreams and I’m going to find a way to make them happen. I want to be able to show my family that you can do what you love, and follow your passion, even if it doesn’t work the first time.”

As Karenna forges ahead with attitude and passion, further success seems imminent for her– and for hundreds more women on their fertility journey.

Photos courtesy of @ALEISHALIEBEZEIT_

 

Irreverently passionate writer, singer, comedian and “former” radio host, Em Rusciano talks renovation, rage and who should bring in the bloody washing.

Em Rusciano will never work in breakfast radio again and she wants it in print as a reminder that Sydney’s 2DayFM hosting role that she resigned from in September 2018 is permanently behind her.

“It’s been good, I’ve been very grateful for my time but I will never step back in that arena, never,” Rusciano says from the renovation site of her Melbourne home. Because, renovating “is what you should do when you’re heavily pregnant,” she jokes; and explains she is always biting off more than she can chew, just to see what happens.

Rusciano’s renovation is but one of her projects. She is currently writing her first fiction novel with Harper Collins, working on a stage show which includes a musical collaboration with Kate Miller Heidke and expecting her third child, a son in January, with husband Scott, whom she has two daughters Marchella, 17 and Odette, 11. This workload is Rusciano’s version of paring back and having some downtime, which she says is helped by being true to her creative self.

“Well it is all relative,” she explains, “I’ve only got the few projects and that’s me being sensible. I really am so happy at the moment, I get up every day and I write my book and then I go and work on my show with my team.

“I’ve got a line of merchandise that I’m working on and I get to pick my girls up from school, and every day I’m thinking to myself, ‘you’re so lucky that you’re able to pursue the things that are really in your heart.’ I think that’s when you make your best stuff and you’re at your most creative. I’m just a happier, more fulfilled person. I was angry, I was really angry for a while and I couldn’t figure out why and then I realised I’d strayed too far from my creative essence.”

“I was angry, I was really angry for a while and I couldn’t figure out why and then I realised I’d strayed too far from my creative essence.”

It was Rusciano’s creative needs both as a mother and artist that was the driving force behind her decision to get out of radio. Her second child was born while she continued working on Perth’s 92.9 Breakfast Show, Em, Sam and Wippa, so, on discovering her pregnancy this time she knew she was going to do things differently. “With Odette, I went back to work five weeks after a caesarean and I was still breastfeeding every couple of hours. It was a nightmare, so I was determined when I found out I was pregnant this time that there was no way I was going to try and tackle that again, it nearly killed me.”

After leaving Perth radio and working on her own projects she was lured back to breakfast radio at 2DayFM.

“I felt I had some unfinished business [in radio] and I love broadcasting, but I quickly realised once I was back that while I was grateful for the opportunity it was probably not the best place for me creatively. I did my very best and sometimes that was a good thing and sometimes I was smashed in the media.

“Definitely, everything happens for a reason and getting pregnant has given me an opportunity to step away in a really nice way; a lot people get sacked from breakfast radio, I got to leave on my terms.”

Having her career on her own terms is something that Rusciano is quite suited to and familiar with, having spent the best part of a decade creating her own brand of celebrity/artistry. She put together her own team and developed a series of stand-up/ cabaret style concerts full of her raw, unapologetic humour, polished musical production and the voice which earned her the fame she has doggedly capitalised on since becoming a finalist as Marcia Hines’ pet on the second season of Australian Idol.

Rusciano is a go-getter and recognising she is not a conventionally marketable personality she has gone out and created her own brand and pursued her own audience. She has a successful social media presence with a healthy following for her blog, emrusciano.com, which is popular with mums. She’s published a memoir called Try Hard, Tales from the Life of a Needy Over Achiever and sold out the Sydney Opera House this year with her cabaret show Evil Queen, which toured nationally.

Rusciano’s new stage show, which she plans to tour later next year, will be about embracing feminine rage, an emotion Rusciano became consumed by during the gruelling hours of breakfast radio and is now inspired to channel in more positive and transformative ways.

“I spent six months of this year angry and I couldn’t understand why, and it started showing up in weird ways,” she reveals. “I’m reading a book at the moment called Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly. It’s incredible and I encourage every woman to read it.

“My stand-up stage show next year is about embracing female rage and how everyone is so terrified of women expressing that they’re unhappy, not realising that’s just making them more unhappy. We hide [our rage], we don’t acknowledge it and it weakens us.

“I came out of radio feeling so much rage, there’s this rising tide of women going, ‘Why do I feel so itchy and cross all the time?’ We’re all becoming more awakened to the little inadequacies and little inequalities toward women and if you’ve got daughters, I’m especially conscious of the little things that work against my kids just because they have vaginas and oh my god, it makes me so mad and it makes me mad for my daughters. So, you know, what do you do with that rage? You can’t stew on it, you can’t form a lynch mob, you’ve got to channel it.”

“I’m especially conscious of the little things that work against my kids just because they have vaginas and oh my god, it makes me so mad and it makes me mad for my daughters.”

Rusciano is doing what she does best and what makes her most happy, channelling her experiences into creative projects and hoping it’s of value to her audience.

“I’ve just become so aware of so many things over the past couple of years and it’s going to come out in this book and in this stage show, and I hope that it helps other women navigate their lives and feel a little less angry and a little less ripped off and be better communicators.

“I really love doing that kind of thing, I want to be able to help women. Because I have been helpless and angry and crying and not really knowing which direction to turn and I’d like to be someone people can look to and say, ‘Okay, well how did she do it?’ And, maybe they could adopt some of the stuff that I did too. That’s the primary reason for it all.”

Rusciano’s adaptations include shifting the enduring trend of women doing the greater percentage of the domestic work load in the home and she believes this is harming relationships.

“Especially if women allow themselves to do a hundred percent of the domestic loading and I think that’s a real problem, and I think that’s on us, we need to put the boundaries in and we need to say to our husbands ‘I’m not just at home with the kids doing nothing, I’m with our kids’.

“When our husband does the washing, you don’t thank him for helping you, that’s not helping, he’s doing his job as your partner and as the father of the children. Father’s don’t babysit their kids, that is their job in life but they get thanked, you don’t get thanked every day for the loads of washing you do.

“This whole notion of, if a dad helps, then he gets thanked and if a mum does the same thing then that’s just her job. I just think it’s bullshit and I think that’s where there is a lot of problems in marriages, when a woman just feels so taken advantage of and so over worked and bogged down with crap and the husband’s just like ‘Well, oh well I’ll help you out’ and I’m like ‘no fucker!’

“I just think it’s bullshit and I think that’s where there is a lot of problems in marriages, when a woman just feels so taken advantage of and so over worked and bogged down with crap and the husband’s just like ‘Well, oh well I’ll help you out’.”

“Even last week [Scott] said to me, ‘Oh that washing needs to come in, it’s gonna rain’. I checked him, and I said, ‘Hey fucker, feel free, pointing it out doesn’t make it so’. All the men that I know that are in happy relationships do a division of the domestic labour and it’s a fucking happy relationship.”

A happy relationship is something that Rusciano, 39, and her husband Scott, who she met when she was 19, have worked very hard to create. She explains, it hasn’t come easy, having separated on two previous occasions, they have now reached a happy, less volatile place in their relationship.

“We’re a team, we’re a genuine team and we work so fucking hard at being a team. I can’t even think how hard we’ve worked on our marriage, so much work has been put in, it’s one of the things I’m most proud of, my relationship with Scott.”

“I can’t even think how hard we’ve worked on our marriage, so much work has been put in, it’s one of the things I’m most proud of, my relationship with Scott.”

“And, it’s not perfect and we still clash but we’re much better at handling the situation at hand rather than piling it all up and making it a huge thing and ‘oh everything’s terrible’.

“For me, it’s finding that middle place rather than trying to be right, that has solved most of our problems and really listening. You’ve got to really respect what they’re passionate about and you can’t shit on it.

“It’s so easy inside a marriage to get bogged down and it just becomes about surviving and functioning rather than growing and it’s really hard when you’ve got young kids, especially when that’s the time where you’ve gotta band together and not go into corners and throw shit at each other. That’s what generally tends to happen and what certainly happened to us.”

With a totally renovated relationship and on the precipice of turning 40, Rusciano quickly refutes the need to reshape next year’s goals in the event her new baby happens to be a non-sleeping barnacle.

“Nuh, No! Why? No! I am a better mother and a better human when I am doing that shit. I am a better mother when I’m working on stuff I love so, I am a person first and a mother second and I’m a good mother because that’s my ethos.

“I am a better mother when I’m working on stuff I love so, I am a person first and a mother second and I’m a good mother because that’s my ethos.”

“I think if you let being a mother consume you then you end up a bit unhappy, and then a lesser person, and then you know, not as good a mother as you can be. I always encourage women to interpret who they were before children and nourish that person and then they’re going to be a fucking excellent mother and more fulfilled. And never give up, my daughters see me doing that every day, I’ll never stop.”

And, what of birth plans?

“My birth plan is to give birth, fucking birth plan, I think if you want to have a birth plan then, fool you, if you try to plan anything in life like that. I just want my baby out and healthy and my obstetrician is the most incredible man, I trust him wholeheartedly, so, nah, I just want the baby here and I don’t care how I have it.”

“And never give up, my daughters see me doing that every day, I’ll never stop.”