FALLING pregnant for the first time was supposed to be the world’s biggest adventure for Mark and Susan Nethercote. Only, their adventure took a turn when Susan was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy.
Life became a rollercoaster of emotion as the Ballarat couple tried western and alternative methods to start their family, eventually leading to IVF.
The journey challenged Mark, as a paediatrician and husband, to make sense of navigating an adventure not going to plan.
So he blogged.
The result is his book A Time for Grace, which he hoped would help other men – and women – going on similar journeys.
“Suse would have a huge pile of (help) books beside her bed but there weren't many books to help me,” Mark said.
“I wrote to record what was happening as much as to process it. It was a long blog. When writing the blog, I had on-the-spot feedback as I posted. I did my own healing as I was doing it.”
Writing has always been a creative outlet for Mark. The science side of him likes statistics.
Suse would have a huge pile of (help) books beside her bed but there weren't (any) to help me.Mark Nethercote
Desperate to fall pregnant, Mark and Suse would notice numbers like 28 out of the 31 couples at their wedding had children, or were pregnant, while they were trying.
But Mark also realised one in six Australian couples had difficulty falling pregnant and one in 30 got pregnant through assisted methods. This equalled a lot of Australian men experiencing similar scenarios and not many talking about it.
“We felt something was wrong with us, because we weren’t falling pregnant. You do feel that you’ve failed,” Mark said. “By showing our vulnerability through the whole process, we hope to show others they’re ok. I use humour, too, and also offer a doctor’s perspective.”
Mark and Susan are now on a parenting journey with two daughters, aged five and four, the second naturally conceived.
This adventure has changed his outlook as a paediatrician both in relating to parents and in realising the little crises he had not learned to solve in medical school. Like the best ways to treat nappy rash.
Mark felt the blurring in his life between doctor and human was a good thing.
There were lots of tears, but there were lots of laughs. Susan said assisted pregnancy had lots of awkward moments, often still considered taboo to talk about publicly. She hoped the book helped to change that outlook and spark conversations to shed light on long-avoided topics.
Above all, Susan felt it honoured their story.
A Time for Grace is available online at marknethercote.com, at Paediatrics Ballarat and in selected bookstores.