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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_

 

Mornings are hard! With the help of our readers, we have put together a list of tips and tricks to help your mornings run smoother.

There was a time, before kids, when you could wake up at a leisurely pace, pee in peace, drink your coffee hot, shower as long as you liked and still make it to work on time. Now, you’re lucky if you remember to brush your teeth!

We hear you. If you’re looking for more peace and less fuss in the mornings, check out these tried-and-true tips and tricks from some of our readers.

The Night Before

• Lay out clothes (yours and theirs) the night before.

• Prepare and pack lunches and put them in the fridge to be packed into school bags the next morning.

• Make some grab-n-go breakfasts if you’ve got the time and/or inclination. Muffins and granola bars tend to work really well.

• Get enough sleep. Kids generally need between 10-12 hours at night, while you need 7-8 on average.

Take Care of Yourself First

We cannot recommend this highly enough. Waking up 10-15 minutes earlier than the kids should give you enough time to do the following:

• Drink a big glass of water.

• Get showered and do your hair / make-up.

• Have some coffee (One mum suggests pairing this with some Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers. We don’t disagree.)

• If you’re feeling extra brave, try waking up an hour earlier to meditate and start the day off right.

Waking Them Up

Try these at your own peril.

• Start the day with a hug. This lets them know they are loved and puts them in a good mood.

• Sing loudly as you’re walking through the house on your way to their room. By the time you arrive, they’ll be wide-awake. Grumpy, sure. But awake!

• For older children, put their alarm at the other side of their room so that they have to get out of bed to turn it off.

• Let older children be responsible for getting themselves up on time. If they’re not ready, then they’ll learn from that.

• If your kid is really upset about going to school, it might be worth talking to their teacher and checking that nothing is going on that you should be concerned about.

Morning Procedure

• Get dressed AFTER having breakfast to avoid having to get changed if there are any accidents or spillages.

• Use a checklist so that they know what they need to do. Little kids who can’t yet read can use picture reminders (toothbrush, clothes, cereal bowl, etc.)

• Parents should be sharing morning duties between them; one getting the kids fed while the other gets them organised/dressed.

• Give yourself more time than you need. If you allocate the time in advance for any accidents, tantrums or spills, you won’t go into panic-mode when they happen.

• Limit time on showers and have an agreement on who will use the bathroom first, while the others have their breakfast.

• No TV in the morning. It’s too much of a distraction, and they won’t want to leave before the end of their show.

Getting Them Out The Door

•  Leave on time, even if they’re not 100% ready. They’ll soon learn to hustle.

• Do a quick tidy-up before you leave. It’ll make coming home in the evening much more restful if you’re walking into a reasonably clean house.

• If they are late because they refused to get out of bed or dawdled in the morning, let them take responsibility and tell the teacher themselves.

The most important thing is to relax. Kids will usually take their cue from you. If you’re stressed out and panicked, chances are they will be too. So, take a deep breath. Things don’t always go the way we plan, and that’s okay.

Mumma, you’re doing fine.

Madonna’s ex-nanny, Perth-based Angela Jacobsen, chats to Offspring about the challenges and benefits of working for high profile families.

When Angela Jacobson decided to swap her dream of flying planes for a living for a career in childcare, she couldn’t have foreseen she’d end up dancing with her boss, Madonna, for the royal family in India, as a kind of cobbled-together entertainment. The down to earth thirty-three-year old laughingly describes the experience as her, “most bizarre nanny moment,” yet.

“When I was in India with Madonna on her family vacation, we were staying with a king and queen in a palace and all the women were forced to dance for the king, and the princes around them actually, because of the sexist world that they live in,” she explains.

“Madonna made me dance, and she made me wear a sari. That was my weirdest boss moment…I just had to. All the women had to get up and dance for the men. We were in the palace…so I, very begrudgingly, danced around in a sari.”

It was one of many strange celebrity encounters Angela experienced in her 18 months working for the Material Girl who, during her tenure, acrimoniously divorced film director Guy Ritchie. As the sole carer of Madonna’s adopted son, David Banda, Angela joined the singer’s entourage and toured with her, as well as jetting to far-flung locations from her New York base.

Madonna, famed for her discipline and work ethic, is also notorious for demanding her staff work equally punishing hours. According to media reports, the gruelling lifestyle eventually took its toll on Angela and, when she handed in her notice after a year and a half, the furious pop star told her to leave immediately.

“All Madonna’s employees work incredibly long hours, so it’s no surprise that Angela had had enough,” a source told a newspaper, at the time.

“If you work for Madonna you are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s no such thing as a weekend.”

Angela later refuted rumours of a rift with her famous employer, saying, “She was a great boss and I mean it was obviously quite a full-on experience. She was fantastic to work for and a big motivation for me…She’s very much a loving mother.”

Melbourne-born Angela’s experience as Madonna’s nanny was a far cry from her childhood goal of being a pilot. It was a dream she was forced to jettison after her parents divorced when she was seventeen, and she was left in charge of her brother and the family home.

“I didn’t foresee this path,” she says. “I wanted to be a pilot and I was in the Air Force Cadets…It wasn’t as though I set out to do this, it chose me. And as much as I’ve tried to move away at different times, it’s brought me back. It seems that’s what I am now. I’m a carer, and that’s what I do.”

“If you work for Madonna you are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s no such thing as a weekend.”

Nannies inhabit a rarefied space in families. They’re privy to the day-to-day interactions between spouses and parents and children, while being required to maintain a discreet distance from the inner workings of a family. It can be an uneasy mix, this intimacy with strangers.

“You learn a lot,” says Angela, diplomatically, of the trusted position most nannies hold.

“You learn how to treat your husband, how not to treat your husband, what to do with your kids, what not to do with your kids. It’s trial and error for everybody but you learn so much just by being in someone else’s family…I’ve got kids, now, all over the world so to speak…A lot of them are teenagers now and I’ve got them on Facebook…There’s so many positive rewards to come out of it.”

Indeed, Angela, who studied childcare, and has worked as a nanny for average families as well as elite sports people, royalty and celebrities, believes that working overseas as a nanny is one of the best options for young, travel-loving Australians, who might otherwise earn their keep toiling in a cafe or a pub.

“If you’re a nanny you get to live in a beautiful house, you eat lovely food, you go on lovely holidays…it’s hard work but everything in life is hard work. I think that for a young girl, it’s the best way to see the world and also save money. It can set you up for later in life.”

While Angela has used her earnings to invest wisely for her future, she reveals that working for a celebrity boss doesn’t necessarily mean getting paid a celebrity salary. Payment for working for a ‘civilian’ family is on a par with, for example, working for royalty in an Asian country.

“You generally get paid a weekly rate as a nanny,” she explains. “The saving side of it is just incredible. I’ve got two properties. One overseas, and one here in Australia in the city. They were from two different jobs…I basically just set a budget for both jobs.

You don’t pay for anything. You don’t pay for accommodation, or travel. I had a driver in Asia and I had a driver in America too. Or you have a taxi account. All the food is cooked by chefs and all the housekeepers are buying your food, and what have you, and they give you a phone and the internet, all that sort of stuff, so it’s a great way to save some cash. It definitely beats working in a pub!”

Not everyone is cut out for looking after other people’s children, however Angela cites flexibility and patience as the key qualities for being an effective nanny.

“She was a great boss and I mean it was obviously quite a full-on experience. She was fantastic to work for and a big motivation for me…She’s very much a loving mother.”

“You need to be very hard working, as all women do, and all mothers need to be. You need to be flexible, patient, obviously loving and caring. The upside is that it’s a job, so you can leave at the end of the day, or have the weekend free to yourself, and still have your own life, whereas mothers don’t get that break.”

The downside to the job that can offer worldwide travel, a luxurious lifestyle, numerous perks and a window into the cocooned world of the super wealthy, is leaving the children you have become so attached to.

“They’re not your actual children and leaving them would be the hardest part of being a nanny,” Angela says.

“I now put a two year maximum, because I stayed with a family in England for about three years and it just is so hard on me and the children. The baby had grown up just with me. She didn’t know anything else so it was really difficult for me to leave.

 

There becomes a lot of emotional blackmail with the parents as well, at that point, because you are going to upset their children and you are going to upset their life if you move on but, also, you’re a young person that needs their own life. So there’s a fine line.

So, now I like to go in and go ‘okay, I’m doing this for eighteen months or I’m doing this for two years’. It can’t be too short either because that’s not fair on the children to go in and only work for a few months and move on. So to have an outline of how long you’re going to stay for makes it easier…you can see a finish, because sometimes things aren’t that great. So… you…set a goal and say, ‘okay I’m going to work this long and I’m going to earn this amount’. ”

“The upside is that it’s a job, so you can leave at the end of the day, or have the weekend free to yourself, and still have your own life, whereas mothers don’t get that break.”

That focus and determination have seen Angela use her years of professional experience to develop a burgeoning, nanny-related, media career, as well as a number of side businesses. She has written two books, Baby Love and Baby Food, and is just about to start filming a new television show Family 360 (working title) in Singapore.

The show, which Angela describes as having a different focus to the phenomenally successful Super Nanny program, will see her work with local Singaporean families on any problems they may have.

“We go in at the top level, being the parents, and work out the issues that are going on there, because they obviously stem through to the kids,” she states.

“So whether it be nutrition or fitness, or what have you, we tackle it as a whole family and not just go in and put a band aid on and leave. We’ll do eight episodes with one family…and really make it more educational than drama.”

Family 360 is a concept she has discussed with Australian media personality, Steve Vizard, and Profile Talent Management, in the hope the show will be developed in Australia. It’s early days but, so far, the feedback on her idea has been encouraging. Along with her TV show, a project with Google and an interactive Nanny/Babysitting site, utilising Facebook, are also in the works.

Despite her budding media and business careers, Angela is keeping her hand in with the work she knows best and, this time, she’s staying close to home. She recently turned down a job working for the royal family in the Middle East, for a stint as a nanny for an ordinary family in suburban Noranda, Perth.

“I’ve been there and done that with the celebrities and that kind of lifestyle,” she explains, cheerfully.

“I’d much prefer to work in the suburbs of Perth…Everything’s just normal. The kids muck in and help you with the dishwasher unstacking. There’s no maids running around, and all that sort of stuff that I’d got used to.

She pauses for a moment, then laughs. “It’s kind of refreshing to be working back in Australia.”