7 Sep 2022

When Sex is Not Enough

From Nights, 7:12 pm on 7 September 2022

Three Kiwi women get raw and honest about their personal struggles with fertility in the new book When Sex Is Not Enough.

Trying to have a baby can be a very lonely and sad experience, says Stephanie Larnder, and she hopes the book will be helpful for the many women going through it.

"There really wasn't [a resource on infertility] that we could emotionally connect with so we realised we could [provide] that for others in the situation."

Melissa Hori, Stephanie Larnder and Simone Fernandes - authors of When Sex is Not Enough: Three Fertility Journeys

Melissa Hori, Stephanie Larnder and Simone Fernandes - authors of When Sex is Not Enough: Three Fertility Journeys Photo: Supplied

In When Sex Is Not Enough, Stephanie and her co-writers Melissa Hori and Simone Fernandes share their own very personal - and very different - infertility stories which include IVF, surrogacy, adoption and cervical cancer.

They hope the book can help make infertility less of a taboo subject.

"[Infertitlity] is so common but I think people see it as a failure or [representative of] something they can't do. And we wanted to take away that connotation… and talk about it because it is so common and it affects so many.

"We need to be kind to each other and band together rather than feeling so alone and ashamed."

Stephanie had previously worked with Simone and was introduced to Melissa by her sister Raychil.

The three women bonded over the difficulties of trying to have a baby and together created a safe space where they could be "unfiltered".

"After hours of chatting, we realised that we could support each other and then that evolved naturally into let's support more [people]."

Book Cover - When Sex is Not Enough

Photo: supplied

When Sex Is Not Enough includes written pieces by each of the women's partners about their own experiences of trying to have a baby.

Although Stephanie says women seem to be presented with expectations of motherhood more directly, men can carry just as much shame about infertility because they're less inclined to talk to their friends about it.

Although the struggle to have a baby was extremely hard on her marriage, she says the silver lining was that the shared experience brought her and her husband closer.

"It really did strengthen the bond we had because we learnt to communicate on such a deeper level. And it did feel like it was him and I against the world sometimes because you're feeling this pain and this loss that no one else can see."

Friends and family can be awkward around people experiencing infertility because they don't want to say the wrong thing, Stephanie says.

When Sex Is Not Enough includes guidance on how to communicate with sensitivity.

"We always try and fix things as Kiwis. And sometimes you don't need fixing. Sometimes you just need a bit of a hug and an agreement that this isn't an ideal situation and I'm sorry that you're going through it - acceptance rather than a fix."

The book encourages women to set boundaries where they need to - such as politely declining to attend baby showers if they'd rather not be in such an environment.

Stephanie says when she was trying to conceive, baby showers were extremely painful for her and she just explained this to her friends.

"In most cases, people love having some guidance about how to treat you because they love you and they want to be mindful of your feelings."

Although people experiencing infertility may often want to curl up and cry because they're so fed up with everything, you still have to try and let the light in, she says.

"As hard as it is to mentally switch off when you're in that space, it's really important to be kind to yourself and still allow happiness in your life even though [fertility struggles] can be all-consuming."

After Stephanie had a hysterectomy due to a cervical cyst, she and her partner had a son via gestational surrogate two years ago. Melissa now has a three-year-old girl who was conceived via IVF, while Simone and her partner have gone through many rounds of IVF and still trying.


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