In November I was interviewed by the fabulous Lucy Meggeson from Spinsterhood Reimagined, all about my IVF journey, Hoopsy, life, love and everything in between! You can listen to the episode below or read the transcript underneath….
Hey, and welcome back to Spinsterhood Reimagined. Before I tell you about my guest on today’s episode, I just very briefly wanted to let you know that I’m doing one to one coaching from January, which is very much geared towards helping single women feel better about their lives. And what my coaching essentially looks like is a combination of really working on your mindsets, an introduction, I would say, to all things spiritual. I talk a lot about energy and learning to be really mindful of what you’re thinking on the basis that what we’re thinking is actually creating our realities. I talk a lot about that. I also give you guys tips and tricks and try and implement some habits into your life to essentially make it better. It’s really all about teaching you things that you can actively do every day that are going to make you feel more positive, going to make you feel happier, going to make you feel more content and just more in love with your life. So if you’re looking to feel more hopeful, to feel more excited, to feel more inspired and you’re interested or intrigued or curious to know what coaching with me might be like, I’m doing 30 minutes free coaching calls, so that if you’re interested, then you can just have a 30 minutes coaching call with me on Zoom to see if it’s something that you might want to take further. So please either just drop me a DM on Instagram at Spinsterhood Reimagined or just send me an email to Lucy@lucymeggeson.com.
Okay, on with today’s episode. Now, my guest today is a British entrepreneur called Lara Solomon, who, although she’s British, she actually lives in Sydney, Australia. And she is the founder of a company called Hoopsy, which manufactures ecofriendly pregnancy tests to help counteract the sheer amount of plastic pollution that the normal all plastic tests usually create. Hoopsy actually came about off the back of Lara’s journey to try and conceive, which, sadly, didn’t work. At the age of 45 and single, she decided that she wanted to try and have a child on her own.
Lara initially had IVF, and she then went on to have embryo donation in Spain. But as I say, sadly, it wasn’t successful. But off the back of this, Lara realized how many times women who are trying to conceive test using plastic pregnancy tests. And that is how her company was born. In this episode, we talk about her previous marriage. She was married 20 years ago. He was the reason she ended up in Australia. We talk about how she feels about being single. We talk about dating insignia and what’s that like. We talk about all sorts of things, including, of course, her journey of trying to conceive as a single woman. I know you guys are going to enjoy this episode. I think it’s interesting for anyone just to hear about somebody’s journey of trying to conceive. So, without further ado, here is the remarkable Lara Solomon.
Lara Solomon, thank you so much for joining me and a very warm welcome to Spinsterhood Reimagined. Now, before we really get into our conversation, can you just tell our listeners a little bit about who you are, what you do and just a bit about your background? Really? Yeah,
Lara: A the moment I have a company called Hoopsy and we make environmentally friendly pregnancy tests. And this will came about because last year I tried to get pregnant through IVF and I just saw how much plastic was in the test that women were using. And (A) I didn’t know that people use more than one test, and (B), I didn’t really put two and two together that most people use midstream tests and they’re all encased in hard plastic and use the test for literally five minutes and throw it in the bin. And I just was shocked because although I wouldn’t say I’m a super greenie, I do care about what I buy and recycle and all that kind of thing, and I just thought there’s got to be a better way. I looked into it and there was no environmentally friendly midstream option. I just worked with a manufacturer, designed our own and we launched in the UK in middle of July this year.
Lucy: I obviously want to talk more about Hoopsy a little bit later on, but before we go into your IVF journey and more into this business. You’re like a serial entrepreneur, aren’t you?
Lucy: I know you were married and you’re no longer married, but your marriage from back then took you to Australia. So, although you’re British, you actually live in Sydney. Can you kind of rewind and just so that everybody knows a little bit more about how you’ve come to be living in Sydney and all of that?
Lara: So, yes, I’m originally from the UK and when I was at university, I met a guy and he was English as well, but he had residency in Australia. So basically he moved to Australia. I started working in a marketing role in the UK and then nine months later I moved to Australia to be with him. I knew I loved Australia because I’ve been there before, but I just wasn’t sure how it would go with him. But we got married and five years later got divorced. My choice, I just didn’t feel it was 100%. And meanwhile I started a few different businesses. In 2004 I started my first business Mocks, mobile phone sock covers and we sold in UK and Australia. It was at the time when you couldn’t get the cover for your the only sold cover for Nokia phones. Every other phone you couldn’t get a cover for. And the thing with socks is they’re stretchy and they fit any size phone. No heel, in case you’re wondering.
Lucy: I remember having one of those years ago.
Lara: We sold in about two and a half thousand stores in Australia. Two and a half thousand stores in the UK. It was very popular. And then I kind of got a bit bored and then I started a social media agency and after a couple of years I decided I didn’t really like doing that. So then I came back to the UK and I lived in Brighton for a year and worked for an online travel company and stayed on for a little bit longer and lived with my mum. I started another business, which was a marketplace for hairdressers and beauticians, where you reviewed the person that provides you with the service. And then my mum got sick, so I looked after her, she seemed to be getting better. And I went back to Australia and I ran my brother-in-law’s business, Omlet, which sells pet products, chicken coops, cat enclosures and other things. I launched the Australian branch of his business. I did that for four years. And then I started a business selling poncho towels for adults, so hooded towels, like the kids were on the beach. And meantime, before that, my mum actually ended up dying of cancer. And so I did a lot of fundraising, got very involved in cancer research charities and designed a range of ugly Christmas jumper swimming hats and sold those and so far I’ve raised about Au$20,000. It’s about £12,000 from selling swimming hats for cancer research, which is great. And after my poncho towels, I went through an incubator program and I started a personalized children’s storybook company, which I got investors for and got funding. I sold that at the beginning of last year, and then was looking for a new challenge.
I always knew I wanted to do something in sustainability, but I knew that I didn’t want to do something where I wanted to do something tangible, where I could see that what I was doing was making a difference with people who sell. Like, if I can reduce your carbon footprint, you don’t actually see anything, and that’s not me. I like something tangible. So taking plastic out of landfill seems like perfect thing. And I ocean swim every day and often see plastic and collect it in my cossie and throw it in the bin when I get out. So, yeah, it’s something that I’m pretty passionate about.
Lucy: Wow. God, Lara, my head is slightly spinning because you have done so many different things. It’s amazing. I love the fact that you are a proper entrepreneur who’s done sort of so many different business ventures. I love it. Now, I just got to say, you’re originally from Salisbury, aren’t you?
Lucy: So for those of you who aren’t UK based, Salisbury is southwest, because I grew up in Dorset and I was at school in Blandford, so I know it very well. So we’re kind of not too far away from each other at all, originally. And I noticed, obviously, you’ve lived in Sydney for many years. There’s a slight Aussie accent, isn’t there? I can pick it up a little bit. Do your friends and family say, oh, my God, you sound Australian?
Lara: Yes, my friends and family say, I sound Australian, and I go back to Australia and everyone says, you sound so English.
Lucy: To me anyway, you definitely sound mostly British, but I can just hear that slight, slight sort of Aussie twang just a little bit. Now, I’ve never been to Australia. One of my best friends in the whole world, Jo Chan, lives in Sydney. And she’s said to me so many times every year, when are you coming? When are you coming? And it’s one of those places that I’ve just never been. I would so love to go to Australia. But being completely real, do you know one thing that puts me off that it sounds utterly ridiculous, but genuinely puts me off is the spiders. I know. I’m so terrified of spiders that every time I think about going to Australia, it completely freaks me out. I have to ask, have you seen giant spiders?
Lara: No. I mean, I’ve seen things the size of Daddy long legs, but the legs are a bit thicker, but they’re not dangerous. I’ve been living Australia now about 20 years, and I think I’ve seen a redback once. You really don’t see any of these spiders or snakes and it’s not like you’re kind of dodging them on the street.
Lucy: I think you see that’s what in my mind. But it’s not the redbacks the poisonous ones that scare me. I’m getting goosebumps now even thinking about this. Yeah. I was once on the phone to my friend Joe, and it was night time in Sydney and I’ll never forget her suddenly going, oh, my God. And there was a huntsman in her lounge on the ceiling. Anyway, this is meant to be a podcast called Spinsterhood Reimagined about being single and not having kids. And I’ve just gone off on a complete tangent, but I had to ask you about that.
Anyway, I’m going to say one more thing and then I really will shut up about this. But Joe, my friend who lives in Sydney, I’ll never forget for this story that she told me, okay? This was when she was at university in Sydney and her and a friend were driving along the freeway in their car. And you know how you have the air vents kind of thing along the dashboard, and driving along and what did they see coming out of one of those air vents? The legs of a fucking great black, hairy spider. I’ll never forget that story. Oh my God. It just literally anyway, okay, so so let’s get back to our conversation. Before we talk about your IVF journey, can you just tell me a little bit about you being single? How long have you been single? How do you feel about it?
Lara: Oh, God. Well, I got divorced in 2008, and I’ve basically been on and off single since then. So that’s a long time. I’ve had like, three months relationships, but I find that you get to three months, and then that’s when the cracks start to widen, and that’s when it hasn’t worked. And I guess my thing in terms of single is that I was married. My ex husband was perfectly nice guy. I just did not feel it was 100%, and I wasn’t willing to compromise. Lots of my friends thought I was absolutely mad because he had a good job, he was well paid. I didn’t actually need to work, so it was great for my business because I didn’t have to take a salary because he supported both of us and things like that. But because I had that, it’s like, well, if I settle now, I may as well just stayed where I was. So I really want someone that gets me if I’m going to be with someone. Otherwise I don’t want to be with someone that just doesn’t work. So, yeah, a long time single. I do quite a lot of dating. I go through these mission periods of getting right on the dating app, and then it’s like, okay, date every single day of the week. I think my record is one week. I was going for a date every day, and one guy let me down. He canceled his date. And I had a speed dating but that week as well. So I think I managed to do like 15 dates in a week. That’s my record. 15 dates in a week, including speed dating, where you’re doing like seven or eight or nine in a night.
Lucy: So, yeah, what dating like in Sydney?
Lara: It’s pretty similar to here, to be honest. Like the dating apps. There’s the speed dating, where basically all the guys are I wouldn’t like to say losers, but I would say the women all are a lot, I don’t know, just personable than the guys are. There’s lots of single people, don’t get me wrong, but I think it’s probably similar to anywhere it’s that they all have a lot of people have an agenda, and either they’re only after sex. The last guy I spoke to actually, on Bumble, he said on his profile he’s looking for something casual. And I said to him, what’s casual mean to you? And he said, well, everything has to start with casual, doesn’t it? I thought, well, I suppose that’s true. Okay. Giving him the benefit of the doubt. And we got on really well, and we were texting and stuff for a couple of days, and then I said to him, I forget what we were talking about, but basically it came out that he was only looking for one night stand or casual friends with benefits. And I was like, well, that’s not what you told me. And it feels to me like there’s a lot of that. It’s quite challenging, because people tell you what they think you want to hear, not what they actually think, because they just want to get you to that next stage or whatever. It’s challenging.
Lucy: Wow. One thing I want to pick up on that you said that I find really interesting is you said that when you left your marriage, your friends thought you were mad. Now I just have to pick up on that, because why would they think you are mad to leave someone who you didn’t feel was right for you? And I think that says. That speaks volumes, doesn’t it? Like, your friends think you’re crazy for leaving a relationship because it’s a guy and he’s alive, he’s married you and he’s got money. But the fact that you’re not feeling it seems to be kind of irrelevant. What would you say about that? Because when you said that, I thought, I’ve got to remember to sort of go back to that, because I find it so fascinating.
Lara: I think we’re all, well, not all of us, but people don’t like change. People don’t like to rock the boat. And so many people stay in dead end marriages that it’s never going to change, and yet they seem to think by sticking in it, it will change or I don’t know. I don’t know how the magic fairy will come along and make things different. And it just doesn’t happen like that. And it’s not like I woke up one morning and said, that’s it. We worked on stuff. But I think it’s just people think, you’ve got it easy, you’ve got an easy life. Why wouldn’t you just stay with that? And why would you do something different?
That said basically, it’s risky. It’s a big risk. That’s what they see. Because, you’re going from being supported by a husband that he earned probably about £150,000. His salary is about that much. And that was 15 years ago. So it was a really good salary. We had a lovely house in Manly, close to the beach. We had a nice lifestyle. And you go from that to basically, I was running my own business at the time, so I went back into my business and my salary wasn’t as high as well as having to rent somewhere. Everything was a lot less in terms of if you’re looking at actual physical things and lifestyle, then I think a lot of people look at that. I’ve got a friend in Sydney. Well, actually, she’s now an ex friend, because after doing the IVF, she decided she didn’t want to be friends with me. Yes, I know it’s very strange. She would never leave her husband because she said, I can’t afford to live in Sydney on her salary, which is not true. She could afford to live in Sydney on her salary, but she couldn’t afford the four bedroom house with the garden that she has now.
And I think that’s a lot of it. It’s like, I don’t want to leave because if I leave, I don’t have everything I’ve got here. It’s all very materialistic and honestly, you go and it is different and it’s an adjustment, and it’s hard to get used to being on your own after being with someone. And it’s interesting. Now, most of my friends are in couples, but to be honest, most of the time it doesn’t really bother me. But there are times when you do think, well, it’s it would be really nice, but at the same time, I’m just not willing just to settle for a body with a heartbeat.
Lucy: Isn’t it interesting? Oh, God. This subject, it’s just an endless source of fascination to me how it seems that when it comes to relationships and love and being with someone partnership, we’re all motivated by different things. Because I sort of questioned this over the years as most of my friends have gotten got married and had kids and I had many boyfriends over the years. And I’ve ended up sort of walking away from the last three or four long term boyfriends because it didn’t feel right in my heart, in my soul. I didn’t feel like I wanted to walk down the aisle with any of those guys. And I think some of my friends thought I was completely bonkers at the time because it was like, but he’s really nice, but he loves you, and he loves me, and he’s this and he’s that, and it’s like, I know, but that’s not the point. And it’s so interesting how people are motivated by different things. And in some ways, over the years, I have actually wished that I’d been one of those girls who was like like, you know, what the love bit? I’m not you know, he’s fine, he’s fine. He’s got a good salary, and we have a nice house, and he’ll be a good dad, and, you know, the rest of it like, whatever. It’s not that important. I kind of wish I’d been like that.
Have you ever felt like that? That your life would have been sort of easier had you just gone, oh, okay, well, I’ll stay with so and so, because it’s just easy to say that I think, well, yes, life would have been easier, but I also know myself and I would have gone into, like, major sabotage mode because I would not have been happy and name I’m not someone that can go, yes, dear. I’m just not not that person. I would just explode. I think that’s exactly how I feel. And what amazes me and the thing that I find so fascinating about this is are there just lots of people just kind of suppressing feelings and kind of sucking up a life that perhaps they’re not in their soul? Necessarily happy with, but they’re pushing down feelings that say, you or I would be like, I can’t live like this because I know. And obviously you’re the same. I know that when I’ve been in relationships that just my gut was telling me, no, this just isn’t enough for me. I had to leave. I couldn’t stay. But isn’t it interesting? I have often wondered whether there are just hundreds of thousands of people across the world all sort of pushing aside, healing.
Lara: I’m sure there are. I think it comes back years ago when you got married. There was no divorce. That was not seen as an option, and people just sucked it up. And I still think there’s people doing that for one reason or another. And I think it’s the same as jobs. Like earlier this year, I was doing some really awful temp jobs, which, because I was starting my business, I just wanted to have a little bit of money coming in. And then in the end, it got to the point where I couldn’t do it because I hated it so much, so I just left. Yet so many people stay in dead end jobs that they hate as well because they’re too scared to leave, because what happens if I leave? Will I find another job? I can’t possibly leave until I find another job. And I think it’s exactly the same relationships.
Lucy: I completely agree. So how do you feel now about when you think about your life going forward? Where are you in terms of do you feel okay about the possibility of continuing to be single? Or where are you in terms of your sort of happiness level of being a single woman surrounded by lots of married friends, presumably lots of them with kids?
Lara: Well, sometimes I think this is fab because I can just do whatever I like. I was over in Europe this summer and I went and saw my brother in Italy, and then I went to Naples, then I went to saw a friend in Vienna and it’s fabulous, there’s no one to persuade or you just choose to do something and you do it. But the thing that I find is I really like that companionship side of being in a relationship. Someone asking you about your day, talking to you about stuff and having that constant person that’s there for you and vice versa, and, you know, having someone there, like in the middle of winter in the UK, someone to snuggle up to on the couch, you know, and I do miss that. And I never saw myself being on my own and I still don’t see myself being my own, so I still am looking for someone.
Everyone always says, oh, you know it will happen when you are least expecting it? I’ve probably heard all these things, Lucy, and it just drives you nuts, doesn’t it? And you know, the thing I find quite hard as well is I’m the oldest of four children and my sister is married with three children. My brother is the next one. He’s married with two girls. Then my youngest brother is married with a daughter as well and and he actually named his daughter Lara, she’s 18 months, after me. And when he suggested it to me, I first kind of thought, that’s a bit weird. It’s like, I’m going to die. And she’s the replacement. Or I don’t know, it felt a bit kind of strange to me and it felt like I was never going to have children. That’s what I thought and that’s why he did it. But actually, now it’s really lovely and she’s so much fun. But I do find it quite hard because I have to say, my youngest brother, we all thought he would never meet anyone, nothing would ever happen. He has a series of girlfriends that kind of revolved through the door. It was a friend of his that he’d known for about five years and they just went on a cycling holiday together as friends and basically they came back from this whole day two weeks later, in love and pregnant. Wow. So the space of a year, he went from being single, living on his own, to having a fiancé and a baby.
Lucy: Wow. Impressive.
Lara: They are so good together and it’s amazing. Then I look at my brother and I go, we all thought that he nothing would ever happen there. And look at that. It just it just happens.
Lucy: So, yeah, one thing I actually just like to ask you is do you ever go through feelings of loneliness being single? And if you do, how do you sort of deal with those moments if indeed you have them, maybe you don’t?
Lara: Yeah, no, I do feel lonely and actually went through last year, I went through a massive period of it. It doesn’t seem, at least it’s not for me an everyday thing. It hits me for, like, a few weeks or a month or something, and then it kind of hard and then it kind of dwindles off. And I went through the stage and I just felt lonely, I’m feeling really teary now, but I went through a stage of nobody loves me, no one cares about me. What am I going to do? I live on my own, something could happen to me and no one would even notice, and no one asked me to do anything. That whole thing, you then just feel really sorry for yourself and you just feel like, yeah, it’s horrible. And when you’re feeling like that, you don’t feel like you actually want to go out and do anything because even though that would make you feel better, you want to be with people, but you want someone to come to you. You don’t want to have to go to them.
I ended up, I’ve got a couple of ladies that I swim with, and I ended up reaching out to them and saying to them, I just feel so lonely. I just feel like no one loves me. And they were so amazing and immediately. They were then calling me every day and just checking in on me or sending me a text or just doing things like that that makes me feel really loved. And that is one thing. And for me, my friends have been amazing. And normally when I’m in Sydney, I ocean swim every morning, and I always see the same people. And so for me, that’s like having a partner, because if something happened yesterday, you tell them the next day, and then you’ve got that whole day, and then you see them the next day and they ask you about it. And so you kind of have that continuity of conversation, which I think sometimes is really hard when you’re on your own because it’s hard to phone up your friends every single day and talk about the same topic and your friends are busy and they don’t always have time. So I found that with most the ladies I swim with, they’re a bit older, but we have a lot in common. And because I do see them every day, even if it’s only for half an hour, an hour, it does it makes a big difference to me. And that’s kind of how I’ve dealt with it. And then I’ve got another friend as well who I reached out to when I was just spinning, or maybe it was after I was feeling really blah, and she was just like, any time, doesn’t matter, day or night, just call me. She’s married and she said, It doesn’t matter. I will answer the phone. Just call me. I don’t want you to feel like that.
Lucy: That’s so lovely. You know, it’s funny because I interviewed a lady the other day called Mary Delia Allen. She has a book called Enjoy Your Solo. And she’s been single her whole life. She doesn’t have kids. And we were talking about loneliness, and she writes about ways of sort of combating it in her book. It just reminded me when you said that, because one of the things that she talked about on the podcast is how habits are really important and routine. She sort of said, even if you go to the same coffee shop every day at the same time and you see the same person or the same barista or whoever, funny enough, I work in a coffee shop myself, so I could be that person. But it’s just when you were talking about your swimming friends, it reminded me, because obviously you doing that every day. Those sorts of routines, they really help, right, when you’re on your own, when you’re feeling lonely. Lara, can we talk about your IVF journey? So, first of all, did you always know that you wanted to have kids?
Lara: I always thought I’d be a mum, and I don’t know if that was conditioning, but I just always thought I’d be a mum. And when I was married, we did talk about having children, but at the time, my husband wasn’t ready. And then by the time he was ready, I was ready to leave, so that wasn’t great timing. And then and also, I was like, it’s better to leave when you don’t have the children rather than do. And then I thought I was, okay, I’m only 33, I’ve still got loads of time, I can find someone else, and it just never happened. And I was just really surprised. And then it kind of got to the stage where I really suddenly kind of realized that I was 45 and if I wanted to do anything, I’d better get a wriggle on. And I had a friend going through IVF at the time and she was talking about it a lot and I was learning a lot of stuff I didn’t know about it in terms of, in Australia anyway, you can use your own eggs up to 45.
Lucy: And with this, two, three years ago. How long ago was this?
Lara: Not last year, the year before. I always said I don’t want to have a child on my own. I always thought it’d be too hard. I worked with a psychologist and we did all pros and cons, all that kind of stuff. I had to find someone that if I had a baby and I died, who would take the baby and stuff like this. I had to think through all of that stuff. Yeah, it was hard, but I decided that, yes, it was something I wanted to do and it was something I could really see happening in my life. And even though I knew it would be difficult being on my own, I had other friends that were single mums and single from choice, and so I knew that it was possible. And running my own business obviously makes things a bit easier because you’ve got more flexibility. So, yeah, I just decided then that I was going to do it. That was August 2020. And then I found myself an IVF specialist and went and saw her. And when I went and saw her, she told me the chance of me actually having a child was 2% at my age.
Lara: Yeah. And just through IVF. Tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny. But when you want something, it’s all about hope. And you think, well, someone’s got to be that 2%. Why can’t I be in that 2%? It could be me. So we did the egg harvesting, which is just horrible. Loads of injections and filling your body with chemicals. And we got three eggs. But we found out that one of my ovaries was perimenopausal, which means it doesn’t produce eggs. So that was a bit kind of confronting because to me, perimenopausal makes you think you’re old. And I didn’t feel old, you know? And the three eggs that we got, only one of them was mature, and it did get fertilized. But they have to make it to day five before they pop them back in. And only made it to day three, so it just didn’t work. Yeah, that’s kind of it.
Lucy: So when you started the process, you say you went to speak to a lady about it. So what were the sort of initial conversations? Like, how did it work originally? And then tell me a bit about the actual process of it, what it was like and the sort of time frame.
Lara: I went to see the fertility specialist in August. I was due to be 46 in May the next year. So I said, this has to happen before then. And she said, the soonest we can make it happen is in three months. She was like, that’s actually really fast. And I was like, okay. So then you have to have all these blood tests done, check you haven’t got HIV and syphilis and all these kind of things. And then because you’re getting a sperm donor, you have to have another very expensive, like, 500 pound blood test done to check your genetics to basically to look for markers. So you know how things like spina bifida and things like this, they can’t match you with someone if you’ve got a marker for something they can’t match you with someone else that has the same marker for that, because the chances the child having that are much higher. You have to do things like that. You have to have a lot of internal ultrasounds because they have to look and see if you’ve got fibroids and see when you actually start to take the medication going back a step. So once you’ve gotten through all this and you have to do counseling to check that, you actually want to have a baby.
Lucy: Yeah, not so generally, they’re talking when when you say you have to go through counseling, is this also lots to do with the fact that well, I suppose it’s largely to do with the fact that you’re doing it alone. Is that what that sort of revolves around? The whole kind of idea that or sort of checking out that you are making a sort of rational, conscious decision about having a baby alone? Is that what the counseling is?
Lara: It’s not just alone. It’s just anyone that’s doing IVF, because in Australia and in the UK, if you use a sperm donor now, when a child gets to 18, they can find out who their biological father is, but obviously between zero and 18, you’ve got that whole thing of, you know, the child saying who’s my father? And so it’s really just to bring up more awareness for those kind of things that you could think that will happen later down the track if you were to go through with this and to make sure that you understand the implications, I guess, of what you’re choosing to do.
And then you get to go on the sperm donor list. And everyone was joking around, oh, it’s just like tinder. There are very few sperm donors. Well, at the time there was, because this process of donating sperm takes six months. So when you go to be a sperm donor, you have to receive counseling to check that you know what you’re doing. You then do your sperm donation after you’ve done, I think it’s three or four sessions of counseling and you do your donation. Then they have to keep it for three months, and they have to test it for things like HIV and syphilis and all those things. And the HIV is the one that takes three months to show up. So that’s why you can’t just get someone to like sperm into a cup and then give it to you, and they have to check it for all the genetic abnormalities. And then I’m not sure what the rules are here, but in Australia, the rules are that in New South Wales anyway, where I live, a sperm donor can only have five families. So if a guy has got a wife and children and then has decided to be a sperm donor, they’ve only got four families left. So if they gave sperm to me, then they’ve only got three left if I have a child. So that’s kind of how it works. And so when it comes to choosing your sperm donor, it’s not like 50 people can say I’ll have person A because there’s only potentially four or three spots available for that person.
So it’s quite interesting. And then when you actually go to choose your sperm donor, in the counseling you get told that for your child, it’s easier if your child looks like you. And so if you’re caucasian, which I am, it’s better that you have a caucasian sperm donor because otherwise it’s confusing for them because they’re like, why have I got these certain features that the mother doesn’t have? And because you’re single it brings up a lot of questions. So they recommend that you choose someone that looks like you. So when I actually went to choose my sperm donor, there was only 13 guys on the sperm donor list and only one of them was caucasian.
Lucy: So your sort of options as it were, were narrowed right down.
Lara: So I had one choice basically, it is interesting with COVID that people haven’t been donating because they haven’t wanted to go into a clinic, they haven’t put themselves at risk with COVID and stuff. So there was a big shortage of sperm when I was doing it, so I just went with this guy and so then once you’ve chosen your sperm donor, then they book you in for when you’re going to do the harvesting your eggs. So they would harvest your eggs and then they do inject it with the sperm the same day and then you go back a few days later to get it put back in. So once you’ve started the process there a lot of waiting around and then you actually start on the medication and you basically have to inject yourself twice a day. Depends on what you’re given, but it’s proper needles. When I went to see the nurse training on what I had to do, I’ve always just seen the movies and they just use one of those EpiPen things and I was like okay, yeah, but no it’s not like that. No, it’s a proper needle and for one of them, they have the drugs in the container and you actually have to measure it out and it’s a proper, I don’t know what, five centimeter needle type thing. It’s horrible.
Lucy: Do you inject it into your leg?
Lara: No, into your tummy, kind of between your tummy button and kind of the bottom of your tummy, kind of that area around there, depending you can it basically just kind of above, I guess above your pubic bone area. You inject it in there twice a day. And then you take some medications as well. So you’d be taking Progesterone as well. And then, so you go for an ultrasound at the start, and then you go in for another one later. And then after you’ve been taking it for a few days, because they want to check your uterus lining thickness, your uterus lining needs to be a certain thickness before they can actually do the implantation. So you keep going in and they keep checking your blood, taking blood tests to check your hormone levels. And then when they decide that you’re at the right level, so you were going in every day to have all these tests done. When they decide you’re at the right levels, you then have to do what’s called your trigger shot, which is basically a big injection of hormones to basically force your eggs to start to get ready. And then you go in and have the egg harvesting, which you do under anesthetic. It’s not a local, but it’s not a general. It’s kind of a half in the middle, but you basically get knocked out. And then what they do is when you wake up and they write on your hand how many eggs you’ve got. So you can see as soon as you wake up how many you’ve got. They write it on your hand. Well, they put it on piece of tape and then write it on your hand so you can see straight away, because that’s everyone’s question. How many eggs did you get?
Lucy: Oh, my gosh, Lara, sadly, I know that obviously it didn’t work for you. Now talk me through that, because I know that you were you went to Spain, right, and then you ended up can you just explain what happened and how you then ended up in the hotel having to isolate for 14 days, which is where you found out that you weren’t pregnant or you initially were, and then miscarried. Is that is that right?
Lara: Yeah. So, like I said, when I did the harvesting, my eggs, my egg only made it to day three, so it wasn’t viable to go back in. And then I was given the option, do you want to go again? And I just thought, it’s not worth it because there’s so many factors. So, first of all, it’s like how many eggs, you don’t know how many eggs you’re going to get. Even when you get the eggs, you don’t know if they’re going to be mature enough to be fertilized, then you don’t know if they’re going to fertilize, then you don’t know if it’s going to make it to day five. And I felt that all of those factors made it really hard. And when you’re older, your eggs fall apart more easily, basically, which is why they don’t tend to fertilize well and they don’t tend to result in a baby. So then I decided that, why not cut out a lot of that risk and just go with an embryo? So it’s a donor egg and a donor sperm. But it’s very hard in the UK and Australia to get donor embryos because if you’re a single woman and you’ve had a sperm donor and you’ve got embryos left after you’ve done had your baby you can’t double donate, you can’t donate that embryo. So anything from an embryo that’s made from a donation, an egg or a sperm can’t be used again with someone else different. So you need to get either find an egg donor and obviously you want your egg donor to be as young as possible, but then you’ve got to find someone to ask. Which you really want someone in their twentys and then most people in their 20s probably haven’t had children. So that’s a big ask, because how do they know if they want to have children and do they want a child? Potentially that’s half theirs running around and there’s all these things. So this is why I decided that it was actually going to be easier to go to Spain because in Spain you get paid to be an egg donor. You get paid about €1000 and the sperm donors get paid as well. And then they make the donor embryos and they have them in the freezer. So when you decide you want to go and do get an embryo transfer they just get one out in the freezer. And literally just defrost it on the morning.
So I spoke to the clinic in Spain. The doctor seemed great and she worked with my GP and prescribed me all the medication. And I flew over to Spain and we did the transfer. And it was all very seemed very straightforward. And the transfer is really painless. It’s not even like having a smear test. It’s like you can’t feel anything. It’s this tiny weenie little embryo at this stage, you can fit three embryos on one hair, so that’s how tiny they are. You can’t see them with the naked eye. And so they basically put this tiny tube up inside you and then they just squirt this fluid with the embryo in it up the tube, and then it’s got to kind of land and grab onto the side of the uterus. Yeah. So the first one didn’t work well, I got back to London and I found out that I wasn’t pregnant. I was just so upset that I decided that I was going again. And so booked in with the clinic again and went over. And this time I’d done acupuncture beforehand, which relaxes you, which is supposed to help, did acupuncture straight afterwards. My brother came along with me, my brother in Italy, which was quite hilarious because I felt like because I’d only just been there like, six weeks before, I was like, this is my brother. I didn’t want to think that suddenly I managed to pick up this random guy in six weeks that was coming through the transfer with me. Yeah. So he came with me, and this time it seemed to go a lot better in that we actually could see on the ultrasound the embryo while they’re popping it in, and you could also see the embryo in the uterus and they printed it out, and they gave it to me and said, this is really lucky that you’ve seen that. And I’m sure it’s said to everyone, but you have the picture of the embryo, which is all very exciting.
Then literally a couple of days later, I flew back to Australia. And at that time, Australia had quarantine rules. And so this was last August, and basically you had to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days. I landed in Adelaide because of COVID, on a Friday and I was supposed to do my pregnancy test on the Monday. So I said to them, well, this is the situation. Can I get a blood test? I did have some pregnancy tests with me and they said, no, it’s too risky to have to do a blood test because someone’s got to come into your room and they might get COVID and lalala. And I was like, seriously? Anyway, I did do the pregnancy tests I had and they came out negative. But because I had spent so much time and effort on the IVF. Money as well on all the drugs and everything. I spoke to the hotel doctor and just said, look, I’m not coming off the drugs until I know for sure that I’m not pregnant, because I’ve just been through too much to do this. And in the end, I got very upset and she said she’d send someone to do a blood test. So they came to the blood test. When they got it to the lab, they didn’t analyze it properly and it just said, there’s this, like, gray area. So they measure your hCG levels. Over five is pregnant, but between five and 25, it’s kind of a gray area where you could be or couldn’t be, and I was in that gray area.
So they then had to come back the week after to do another blood test five days later to check again. And then they told me I was pregnant and I was like, fabulous. So I had all of this up and down, like, am I aren’t I type thing? And it was very hard. You’re in a hotel room on your own with nobody. People can call you, but no one’s there to hug you, no one to talk to, it’s very lonely and you’re just lying on the bed crying and it’s just horrible. So that was really hard. And then, I left the hotel, flew back to Sydney, thinking I was pregnant, I was feeling sick, I was feeling really bad morning sickness and I was like, this is great. I mean, you never get excited about being sick, but I was like, this is awesome. And my GP said, right, well, we need to send you for another blood test because we need to see your HCG levels rising because they should double every 48 to 72 hours. And so I went for the blood test on the Friday and we didn’t get the results till Monday, when we got the results on Monday and they dropped. And then my GP said, well, maybe it’s a problem with the clinic, let’s send you to another clinic.
So I went to another clinic and I did another blood test that result was the same. And so basically it was either a chemical pregnancy where it’s just kind of when your body thinks it’s pregnant but it’s not, or it was a miscarriage, a really, really early miscarriage. And you have to think this was only like two weeks after I’d had the implant, after I’d done the transfer. So it was super early. With a normal natural pregnancy, you wouldn’t know that you’ve been pregnant, probably. It was probably like maybe it would have been a couple of days, three or four days after my period was due. I wouldn’t have known, it was so early. And when you’re older as well, the chance of miscarriage is much, much higher. So the only way to see 100% is going for an ultrasound. So my GP kindly sent me for an ultrasound, obviously knowing that it wasn’t going to happen. And I had an ultrasound,I had this horrible woman. She was so horrible. And she insisted on looking at my fibroids and measuring them. And I was like, I don’t want that. I just want you to tell me, am I pregnant or not? She went, no, you’re not pregnant. It was horrible. And I was just crying. And she said, Are you upset? Yes, I’m upset.
Lucy: You obviously went through so much to get to that point and then to be told in such an insensitive way. I mean, I’m truly sorry that it didn’t work and especially that you were told in that kind of way. Would you try again?
Lara: I don’t know, on one hand I think yes, but I’m 47. 48 in May. It’s still possible, but it’s not probable. It’s an experience I’ve never been through. And I think that people that haven’t been through it just so hard to understand it because it’s not like, just grief. It’s because there’s so much hope, and then it’s so down again, and then you’re so hopeful again, and you’re so down, and it’s just like that for a long time, and it’s just really hard. And yeah.
Lucy: Have you given yourself, like, a cut off? I suppose in some ways it would be beneficial.
Lara: It was quite strange, actually, like last year, so I was 46 when I did these transfers and then the thought of doing it this year at 47 suddenly to me felt so much older and I suddenly yeah. And I thought, well, then by the time I had the baby, I’d be 48 or nearly 48. And I just that felt like such an old age to start being a mum and it wasn’t about every other mums or comparing myself to other people. It wasn’t that. It was more about in life. That just seems like such an old age to be doing that. I can on one hand think I can get a lot of the baby fix from my nieces and nephews. I’ve got six of them, between eleven and one and a half. And you kind of in some ways you get the nice stuff because you don’t get the sleepless nights, you get to do the fun things with them. But on the other hand, it’s not the same as having your own child. But now I’m so full on in the business. Like when I was over earlier this year, I did think about it, but I was so busy, I just thought, I’m not in the right head space to do it. And to me, headspace is really important when it comes to these things. The only thing you can do at this stage, I guess, is look at what has come out of this experience, which potentially is hugely impactful for the actual planet.
Lucy: You have moments where you kind of find this sort of a bit of light through the clouds where you think, Hang on a minute, there you were in that hotel hotel room on your own in Sydney, going through the hardest thing of your life. But what’s come out of that is something that is so hugely positive.
Lucy: Yeah. Tell us a bit more about Hoopsy. Where did the name come from?
Lara: Okay, so it was really hard to think of a name because you need something you can get the domain for it, and get social media handles etc. And that sounds okay. And if you’re doing a pregnancy test, you don’t want something, that’s too close to baby because some people are taking it hoping they’re not pregnant. So you’ve got to kind of be neutral. Basically the word hoop is the old Dutch word for hope. And when you’re taking a test, it’s all about hope. You’re either hoping you are or hoping you are not. And then I felt that going through this whole fertility journey was like jumping through hoops. And I think life is a lot of jumping through hoops. It can feel like that. So to the word hoops I just added the Y on the end because it kind of just felt like it rounded it off nicely.
Lucy: I love that. When I heard that it was called Hoopsy, I did wonder what that was from. I love the fact that it’s from the word hope. That’s really cool. So what stage is it at now?
Lara: We’re still really early. We launched in the UK in July. But with the pregnancy test, it’s funny, my sister-in-law said to me that maybe this is your baby, the business is my baby and I am just loving it. I can’t explain it. It’s like, I am loving doing it. I am loving the impact.
It was hilarious. I went to a thing last night, a networking event, that was talking to these two people next to me and they were chatting and then they were like, what do you do? And I told them, they were like, oh, my God, why are we talking about IT? This is amazing. This is so impactful. This is brilliant. I love it. Do you need investors? It’s just fabulous. And one thing I love is that people are really excited by what I’m doing. And I love that people really want to help and really want to get on board. And we’ve had so many people come up to us and just, okay, we’ve got a doctor on board, an Obstetric Gynecologist. She just came up to me and said, Lara, love what you’re doing. How can I get involved? Wow. And that happens all the time. And I love that, that we are building something. It’s not just me. There’s a lot of people that are coming together because they really believe that things need to change and they really believe that we need to do something differently. And I love that it feels like everyone is helping me get there or helping us get there.
One thing we’re doing is we’re about to start an online community. One thing I found is it is really hard going through the stuff on your own, even if you have a partner, it doesn’t mean that it’s any easier because they probably don’t get it. That’s one of the things I really want to do with this business as well, is really support women going through their fertility journey and also educate them. Because I don’t know about you Lucy, but when I was growing up, it was all about don’t get pregnant, there was nothing about you need to think about it by a certain time. You need to look at your options. Like, did you know when you get to 35 that your fertility just falls dramatically? And yet no one talks about it.
Lucy: It’s so interesting because exactly. That I spent up until the age of about 35 trying desperately not to get pregnant. That’s the irony, isn’t it? Yeah. Oh, my God, I can’t get oh, my God pregnant. And actually, like you say, there needs to be more conversation around how incredibly difficult it can be for so many people, because it’s so important to have that education and that awareness is such a huge thing that people need.
Lara: Girls need to know the chance of getting pregnant, at its best, is about 20%. So, you know, it felt to me when we were growing up, you’re pretty much guaranteed, if you have sex, to be pregnant. Yeah. That’s the story you’re being told by the people who like your mum or your dad. But it’s ironic, isn’t it, that is told when we’re growing up, and then suddenly it’s just flipped. And you come to learn, unfortunately, how hard it can, in fact be.
And it’s interesting because I met a girl earlier this year who was 32, and she was talking, she didn’t know my story or anything. She was just saying, My boyfriend really wants to have a baby, but I don’t think I really want to. And I just said to her, if there’s any chance that you think you might want to, you should freeze your eggs now. She said I don’t need to do that there are other things I can do about it. Anyway, it came out and I told her what had been through and stuff, and she said, well, there’s other options, aren’t there? I could do IVF. I said, yeah, you can do IVF, but it’s not guaranteed and it costs a lot of money. She said, I could do surrogacy. I was like, yeah, £150,000. I could adopt. Yeah, three years and about the same amount of money. What about fostering? It’s like, yeah, great if you never want to go on holiday. And it’s just like, you think there’s all these options? But there really is not all these options, or they’re not guaranteed options. It’s not like there’s a backup, really. There’s no guaranteed backup. And I think that’s what people need to just understand that. Just think about it earlier, that’s all. It’s not the case if you have to do anything, but think about it, and then maybe you’ll make a different decision that will help you later on. And I just think people need to be aware of the facts. And it’s not just women either, because men’s fertility falls as well. And research is showing that half of the men in the western world will be infertile by 2045.
Lucy: Well, there’s a statistic that I didn’t know.
Lara: Yeah. And that’s due to things like diet, exercise and things like, you know, watching TV with a laptop on your lap, things like that. All of these environmental factors are impacting male fertility.
Lucy: You know, one thing that occurred to me, just from what you were saying just now, is I think part of the problem with sort of trying to educate young women and young men is that when we’re in our 20s, we just don’t care. We’re we just don’t. I mean, if someone had tried to tell me this when I was 25, I would have been like, yeah. Thanks very much. Okay. But the problem with being young is that you cannot have the gift of hindsight when you’re 25, 26,27, 28, 29. It’s just going to take you to actually get older to realize and then by that point, it’s often too late for many people. That’s what’s so tricky, trying to educate young people when really we’re all kids until we’re freaking 26, 27 anyway, you know, and and we just we just it’s very difficult to teach young people things that just they seem like it just doesn’t matter at that point in their lives. And we all I remember feeling like that, you know, not just, you know, babies, but other things that don’t, you know, don’t drink or this or that or whatever. And you’re like, yeah, yeah, thanks. Okay, whatever. Moving on. I don’t care. Oh, I know. Never going to happen to me because, you know, because I’m 23 and it’s never going to happen to me. I’m never going to get old. And how you think when you’re in your 20s, it’s just like well…
Lara: I actually when I was going through the IVF, well after I went to Spain, I had these neighbours, these two girls in their 20s. So they had first hand experience of what I was going through. We used to talk a lot, and I said to them, you should consider egg freezing. And they said, how much is it? And in Australia, it’s about $6,000. So about what? £4000. And they were not going to spend the money on that. Even if you do want to do it, it’s not a priority because there’s other things to spend money on, isn’t it? Or we don’t have that money.
Lucy: There’s no way when I was 23, there’s no way in hell I would spend £4000 getting my eggs frozen. I’d have been like, no, sorry, I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I’m not if I had £4000 to spend, you think I could have spent it getting my eggs frozen? No,
Lara: I know. And it’s just so expensive, I know. I guess it’s just like that, but the more people talk about it, the more it’s going to be mmore top of mind. And maybe they won’t get their eggs frozen at 24, but maybe they will at 29 or 30. But it’s better than leaving it till 40.
Lucy: These conversations need help them more and more and more and more, and then the penny will start to drop.
Lara: Yeah, exactly. And I think people like Jennifer Aniston coming out about IVF and that kind of thing just really helps.
Lucy: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. You’re so right, Lara, it’s been so interesting to talk to you and thank you for sharing what has obviously been an incredibly difficult stage in your life and an incredibly difficult journey. So I appreciate you sharing it on the podcast, but I’m damn sure that there are listeners who will really appreciate hearing your story. Because either they’ve been through it or they’re thinking about trying IVF themselves. So thank you. Before we wrap up, I need to ask you to let the people know how they can follow you and find you and all those sorts of things.
Lara: Well, yeah, sure for Hoopsy, our website is hoopsy.co and on social media we’re @Hoopsyco on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, LinkedIn, feels like everything. Twitter. You’ll find us there and I feel really cheesy saying this, but I do feel really strongly about this is that I am more than happy to talk to people if they want someone to talk to about things, because I know how hard it was. And I always feel that you listen to these things and someone says this kind of, oh, reach out to me and you feel like it’s a fake thing. But I really, genuinely do mean it. And I do have people contact me through the website or through WhatsApp. And we just have quick chats or whatsapps. And I just want if people are going through this or thinking about it, I am really more than happy to talk to you about my experience. And if it helps, then fabulous. And I just want to put that out there really. The the best thing to do is rather than remembering numbers, just go to the website, and on the website it’s got my phone number and just get in touch that way. And yeah, I’m certainly am really happy to talk to people if they need it.
Lucy: Well thank you. It’s lovely of you to put that outright to people. Thank you so so much for coming on our podcast and I wish you all the best in the future, whatever that looks like. But thank you.
Lara: Thank you for having me, Lucy. It’s been lovely chatting.