When faced with a diagnosis that affects one in six Australian couples, former Australian netball captain Liz Ellis says she felt utterly lost.

“There was no plan or road map,” Ellis recounts of the five-year journey that inspired her new book, If At First You Don’t Conceive.

“There’s so much information that you gather as you go through it and when you get to the end and look back it becomes clear. But that’s useless at the end, you need that at the start.” 

Following the birth of her daughter in 2011, the two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist assumed she was still “hideously fertile”, so it came as a complete shock when falling pregnant again didn’t turn out to be as straightforward as she had anticipated.

Now the proud mother of Evelyn, 6, and Austin, 2, Ellis is on a mission to help confused and frustrated men and women regain a sense of direction on their path to parenthood.

“There’s advice in the book that I wish someone had given me when I was going through it rather than when I was writing the book,” she said.

“There’s things I know now that I wish I had known then and I wanted to pass on what I had learnt. I don’t throw anything out so I had folders and folders of information and I thought ‘I’ve got all this, I can throw it out and keep the information in my head or I can turn it into a book that will help other people’.”

Covering everything from infertility causes to IVF, miscarriage and how to choose a fertility clinic, while answering questions such as ‘are you bonking at the right time’, If At First You Don’t Conceive is a friendly and downright funny guide to falling pregnant.

“I wanted to make it very accessible,” she explained of the book’s lighthearted tone. “Infertility can be very black and bleak and the only thing that gets you through is gallows humour. I wanted to express that.

“I handed in a lot more words than could fit in the book so it had to be edited down but every time the editor took something out I went through it and made sure she hadn’t taken out any jokes. If she had, I found a way to stick them back in there.”

Beyond translating medical jargon and providing an overview of infertility treatment options, Ellis hopes If At First You Don’t Conceive provides much-needed support for couples and singles contending with a difficult diagnosis.

“Regardless of whether you’re male or female, being told you’re infertile makes people wonder what’s the point of being here,” she said.

“It’s important that people know they’re not alone on this journey. It’s so overwhelming and I want anyone who is going through it to know that the journey is personal to you but there are people who have been through it and have, in some way or another, come out the other side of it.

“This will not define the rest of your life. It will shape your life in some way but you will get past it. To get past it with a bit of humour and a bit of a laugh every now and again is a good way to get through it.”

This article originally appeared on The West Australian.

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