It’s been a long road to motherhood for Hot Tomato radio personality Emily O’Keeffe. And describing it as bumpy would be an understatement.
It’s taken "5 years, 260 weeks, 1,825 days, 2.3 million minutes," the loss of 32 embryos and one heartbreaking miscarriage for Emily to fall pregnant with her second child. A sibling to her and partner Gerard’s six-year-old daughter Millie, who also took two years of trying before she was welcomed into the world.
“Millie now seems like a walk in the park compared to what we’ve been through in the last five years,” the 40-year-old told Women’s Health.
And as if that wasn’t enough, yesterday Emily revealed that she just underwent emergency surgery for a cervical cerclage, which involves placing a special stitch in your cervix to help keep it closed during your pregnancy. The procedure should help prevent the loss of the baby due to a weak cervix.
“The universe is pretty intent on making G and I work our butts off for this little life,” she wrote on Instagram.
“We were having a lovely scan with Millie seeing her little brother or sister for the first time, everything measuring perfectly, and then it went to shit town when they discovered my cervix, or the baby plug, was barely hanging in there. So straight to hospital for me.”
Emily said that it can be a common condition for endometriosis sufferers or those experiencing a “geriatric pregnancy” – two categories she falls under.
“I pretty much ugly cried on every nurse that came near me,” she wrote. “I was petrified I would wake up without my baby. The level of grief was twofold, I was worried not only about that loss, but how would I explain it to Millie. When we told her about this baby, after her initial joy she said so innocently ‘this one isn’t going to die too?’ Broke our hearts, the last few years have really impacted on her as well.”
She told Women’s Health that the surgery was the most challenging thing she’s ever done.
“I was just in disbelief. I just thought how come this is so hard for me. How come I’ve been through all of this and I’m halfway there and I still can’t relax and enjoy what I’m going through.”
Despite the trend of announcing earlier than the traditional 12 week mark, Emily said she has held off until 19 weeks because she wanted to be extra cautious.
“I had this nagging feeling something catastrophic would happen when I finally told the world so I held off and then bam, faulty womb,” she continued in her caption.
Emily says the situation is still touch and go but she’s on bed rest and feeling positive.
“I’ve got great friends and family who are bringing me cups of tea and coming to visit me so I’m not bored out of my brain having to lay low. But at the same time, you can't stop the anxiety, every single twinge, every single movement you worry, am I about to go into labour and it’s critical until 24 to 28 weeks then after 28 weeks it’s still not ideal.
Right now, it’s all about the milestones.
“I’m at 21 weeks now, so I’ve got to make the milestone of 24 weeks because that’s sustainable, and then after 24 my goals will be 28 weeks because after 28 weeks the child is most likely to not have any ongoing breathing and development issues. And then 30 weeks we’ll only be in the special care nursery for three weeks then I can bring my baby home. Then if I can get to 38 weeks woo hoo!”
While she’s become inspiringly honest about her fertility struggles, Emily told Women’s Health that she hasn't always been as open.
“It wasn’t really until 12 months in that I realised I was in a bit of trouble and needed help. I was blogging at the time for the Courier Mail, a blog called Emily Everywhere, I was also working on Triple M breakfast and I was also doing the Kerri-Anne Kennerley show. I had this voice, I had three mediums at my disposal but I wasn’t being my true, authentic self, I was just being a happy, joke-y, newlywed and I wasn’t telling anyone that I was trucking myself from appointment to appointment trying to get answers, trying to get hope. I wasn’t sharing that experience, and one day I was like you know what, I’m going to share it.”
She says that the response she received was overwhelming.
“I just had no idea there was a huge silent community of sufferers and that the more people like me that could say something, meant more people like them would be able to say something to their family and friends. The community and support just swelled because people were able to say, ‘I’m having this problem too and I can’t talk to anybody’,‘ I’m bawling my eyes out at kids birthday parties and everyone thinks I’m a weirdo’, ‘my friend’s pregnant and I don’t want to talk to her’. I was able to say, that’s cool, I know exactly how you feel let’s get through this together.”
It might seem like an impossible task, but to those struggling with fertility issues Emily says to try not to let it envelop your entire life.
“Don’t let it get you down, life is still great and I know that’s a hard thing to say when there’s something you want so badly but you can’t have. If you get really bogged down with that it can affect your whole life it can affect your friendship circles, your family circle, your personality, it can affect the decisions that you make, so you need to continually tell yourself – life is good I'm blessed, I've got a great partner, or I’ve got a great job. I've got great friends you know. Keep yourself healthy you mind healthy and your body healthy and just keep going, as long as you can afford to or can deal with it.”
And for those who want to support someone who might be suffering?
“Maybe say how’s it going, listen and leave it. Don’t give bloody advice, the amount of shit advice I got. If you’ve never had a problem with infertility and you’ve got three kids don’t tell them what to do. The worst thing is sitting at a barbecue and people discussing your womb, telling you that if you stand on your head drenched in elephant poop you’re going to fall pregnant. Some of the advice, you know it’s well meaning but unless it’s one infertile to another, giving advice, I think you just have to leave it.”