Finish uni— find ‘the one’— get married— buy a house— have kids. This was the order in which Arielle Nakache expected her life to unfold, and all went to plan — until it came time to start a family.
Arielle was 30 and newly married when she and her husband Karim started trying to conceive. “I thought, I’m ready to have a baby now, because that’s what you’re supposed to do,” says Arielle, QUEEN OF FUN as events extraordinaire owner of Barbarella Productions. “But when it didn’t happen in that first year, we went to see a fertility specialist. Within five minutes of hearing that we’d been having unprotected sex for a year, we were stamped with the word infertile. It was a complete bombshell.”
Full of hope, Arielle and Karim decided to try IVF. She admits they had no idea what they were in for. “You go into it the first time it with a blind faith,” she explains. “The emotional rollercoaster of infertility is like nothing I thought I’d ever have to go through. You don’t know where it’s going to take you, how dark it’s going to get, how scary it’s going to be. You have no idea where the end is, or when you can get off. But you go with it — you just trust. You strap in for the ride, and you hang on.”
Over the next nine years, the couple endured 13 rounds of failed IVF. Arielle recalls the physical toll — the constant hormone injections, blood tests and invasive internal ultrasounds — and says the impact on her mental health was equally devastating. “And for me in particular, with a pre-disposition [Arielle experienced depression in her 20s], I felt so fragile, so vulnerable. In the end I was just a broken, twisted, very sad person.”
Many of Arielle’s friends and family weren’t sure how to respond to her grief. Some gave advice that left her feeling demoralized; others withdrew. “Friends started to not invite me to their kids’ birthday parties,” she recalls. “I became ostracized from my friendship group. I had friends who fell pregnant accidentally and then distanced themselves from me because I was grieving while they were in full joy. It’s a very complex grief. It impacts your family, your relationships, your friendships.”
What she really needed, Arielle reflects, were friends who could be with her in her darkness. “All I wanted to hear was, ‘I have no idea what you’re going through, but I can see you’re in pain. What can I do?’”
After their thirteenth round of IVF, Arielle decided enough was enough. She and Karim tried using donor sperm, with no success. They then spent a year exploring adoption — a process that cost more than $12,000 and offered no guarantees.
Around the same time, they met a couple who had travelled to India to find a surrogate. “I said to Karim, ‘Namaste — we’re going to India!’” Arielle laughs. “I had been to India when I was 25 and had a real heart connection with the country. From that point on I was decided. We filled in the paperwork. Three months later we flew to India, and on the plane I said to Karim, ‘This is insane, we are potentially breaking the law to start a family. But I’m sick of waiting for my real life to begin. I want to live now.’’
An Indian surrogate was chosen for them and the rest of the process was, as Arielle reflects “like putting together a Happy Meal at Maccas!” Arielle didn’t actually think it would work and simply had to release any semblance of control or attachment to the outcome. Arielle and Karim then returned to Australia and retreated to the Northern Rivers of New South Wales to wait for the surrogate’s due date to draw near.
And then came the news they were expecting twins. “I went into denial for about seven months because I couldn’t psychologically subscribe to the idea that it was actually happening,” says Arielle. “I just needed to protect myself, I think. I drank, I surfed, I joined a ukulele club – and a choir!
“A very beautiful friend said, ‘I think you need to honour yourself and your journey and let your friends give you a blessing way’, which is a Navaho Indian tribal circle where the women in your life honour you as you commence your journey into motherhood. The women offer words of wisdom, and then lie you down, put their hands on your pregnant belly and do a little meditation. In my case, my friends put their hands on my very empty belly, and a friend played a song called A Thousand Years. It was a very teary, beautiful kumbaya moment.”
Arielle and Karim’s twin boys, Leo and Noah, are now seven years old. The family of four live in Sydney, and Arielle says the years she spent navigating infertility make her appreciate the joy she has now. “It’s funny, I had so much time to fantasise about what motherhood would be like. I dreamed about it. So now, when one of those dreams is an actual reality — like when I’m cooking pancakes for everyone, or we’re all surfing out the back at Bondi, or even not-so-fun times, like when we all had gastro — I turn to Karim and say, ‘We’re livin’ the dream!’’
Arielle openly shares her story to spread awareness of infertility. “Conversations around infertility need to be normalised. Infertility grief is very niche and specific, and I want to people know they’re supported and that they’re not alone.”
As for her favourite Powerpants affirmation, Arielle says I am strong resonates with her the most. “Because even when you’re grieving and you feel like you’re a god damn zombie, you still find a way to get up and out into the day. To put on your emotional armour to be able to keep a job, hold down a relationship, to do any of that you need to be resilient and strong, and also self-loving and self-compassionate. You need to keep forgiving yourself for your humanness and allow yourself to be vulnerable and know that’s strength.”
Drawing on resilience
A separation was also not on Arielle’s life plan but after 16 years of marriage, Arielle and her husband have recently decided to go their separate ways.
With adversity comes resilience and Arielle is drawing on her strength, wisdom and gratitude as she faces the next chapter of life.
In her words, “I am releasing him, and myself, with gratitude, love and compassion to journey forward and onto new adventures.”
We're livin' the dream!