Even before Alida Moodley* and her husband Arnold* got married over two decades ago, they both dreamt of having a big family.
The couple come from large families with several siblings, and aspired to fill their home with many children of their own.
“We have always loved children and have spent most of our lives together, spending time and caring for our many nieces and nephews.”
Despite the couple’s desire to have their own offspring, they realised about two years into their marriage there was something seriously wrong with either one or both of them in terms of conceiving.
“We went to see a specialist who told us that I have a problem with my womb and that I would never be able to conceive naturally,” said Alida.
Devastated by the news, the couple almost gave up on their dream of having children and feared they had little options available to them.
“We tried to adopt children for many years, but we really wanted a newborn baby or toddler, and the only children we could get was an adolescent.”
After years of heartbreak and disappointment with the process of conceiving and adopting, the couple, who are both now in their 50s, have recently decided to give up on having children completely.
“The adoption process was very emotionally draining, and we were left traumatised, so my husband and I decided that having children was just not on the cards for us.”
Moodley explained that during the time of them trying to conceive, they shied away from In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), the process of fertilisation where an egg is combined with sperm outside the body.
“My husband and I come from an Indian community where such things were initially taboo and frowned upon.
“There have been times where we did consider it (IVF), but when we spoke to some of our family and friends about it, they made us feel like it was unnatural and made me feel even worse about myself and my condition with my womb which won’t allow me to conceive naturally.”
Moodley added that at the time she and her husband considered IVF, access to information was not as accessible as it is now.
“At that time, the internet was not such a big thing, and there we were scared of getting any false hope from the procedure because we didn’t have enough information.”
These barriers prevented the couple from exploring IVF and similar conception procedures, but Moodley insisted that if she was younger and armed with the extensive information they now have at their fingertips, it would definitely have been an avenue they explored.
“It does make me and my husband very sad that we are now too old to try IVF because maybe we would have been able to have children, which what we always longed for.”
The Moodleys might have had a painful experience in their quest for parenthood, but she is just one of eight million people in South Africa who suffer from infertility.
According to the latest statistics, infertility in Africa affects one in six couples, which means that there are about 150 million infertile people in Sub-Saharan Africa.
As infertility does not discriminate against any race, religion or social standing and affects those around the world who have their own unique battle with conception, a gathering has been placed to help couples in distress.
For the first time on the continent, a dedicated fertility show will be held, following the success of similar events around the world.
The Fertility Show (FSA), which will take place in Johannesburg in April next year, aims to provide expert advice to those struggling to conceive in a supportive and unobtrusive environment.
“Fertility Show Africa will host fertility patients in a discreet environment where they will be with a like-minded community to share their journey and obtain support while discovering and exploring the myriad options available to them,” FSA chief executive and organiser Heidi Warricker told The Saturday Star.
“Fertility is certainly up there in the taboo areas, and although it is improving, many people still don’t feel able or willing to share their fertility situation with family, friends, colleagues and employers.”
“We want to break down this barrier while giving them access to all the latest knowledge.”
For this reason, the inaugural event will feature a support zone and a live question and answer session, which will give attendees the opportunity to get all the fertility questions answered by leading specialists and a panel of experts, without any fear or judgement.
“Infertile couples don’t always have access to the acknowledged leaders in their field,” Warricker believes.
“This is a safe space to explore options, learn about the latest treatments available and put some of your worries to rest.”
In a bid to create an amiable atmosphere, each session will begin and conclude with relaxation techniques such as yoga, trauma releasing exercises, meditation and hypnotherapy.
Apart from the safe haven that Warricker and her team are intent on creating, one of the other elements of FSA is that those with infertility issues will have access to experts in the industry in order to map out the best path to parenthood for each couple.
“It gives attendees the opportunity to chat face-to-face with a wide range of clinics and experts as well as offering an unparalleled speaker programme from leading fertility and adoption experts in a space where visitors can engage, ask questions, find answers and gather information from some of South Africa’s best specialists, embryologists, nurses, psychologists and social workers.”
Exhibitors range from doctors to clinicians and practitioners, top- class fertility clinics, advice groups, donor agencies, charities, acupuncturists, reflexologists, diet, nutritional and lifestyle advisers, astrologers, yoga and massage therapists.
FSA is also supported by IFAASA (Infertility Awareness Association of South Africa) and SASREG (South African Society for Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy).
“Industry experts will also be able to network with their industry peers and colleagues and share knowledge and ideas, ultimately benefiting the infertile patient.”
Warricker added that other important issues would also be tackled at FSA including infertility in the African culture, the legalities involved in surrogacy, egg freezing, adoption in South Africa, dealing with pregnancy or infant loss and healthy lifestyle, diet as well as targeted supplements to optimise fertility.
Although there is just one event staged for millions of people affected by infertility challenges, Warricker said FSA was purposely staged in Johannesburg as it is considered a gateway to Africa.
“We are not only targeting all fertility patients or those on a parenting journey in South Africa, but also from Africa and internationally.”
“Johannesburg was named the most popular destination city in Africa for the fifth consecutive year, according to the annual Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index released at the end of last year, so it was a no brainer to debut Africa’s first large scale fertility show here.” * Not their real names.
FSA will be held at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand from March 7-8.
For more information on the event as well as pricing, visit: https://www.webtickets.co.za/EventCategories.apx?itemid=1495566920