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Pathways For Parenthood

Danae Shares Her Top Tips on Navigating Fertility, Pregnancy, and Beyond

Photo credit: Gabriela Bell

Mediaplanet chatted with Danae Mercer Ricci, a health journalist and self-love advocate, about her fertility and pregnancy journey, lessons learned in postpartum, and more.

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Can you tell us a bit about your personal fertility and pregnancy journey?

For a long time, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be a mom. I liked my independence a lot and loved my life in Dubai. I felt that a baby would change everything. But then, things just started to change — this little seed in my heart was growing without me even realizing it. By the time I hit my early 30s, I was certain I wanted a family.

That’s around the time “the Italian,” my husband Nicco, came along. And it was really beautiful, because he was ready for a family, too. We felt so aligned with our life goals — both romantically and in terms of what we wanted for our future.

We started trying for a baby a few months before our wedding. Honestly, we figured it would take ages to get pregnant, and it was nice just not having the stress of when to use protection (since I only tracked my periods).

We ended up getting pregnant very quickly. I found out I was expecting on our honeymoon, while we were staying at Villa Serbelloni in Lake Como, Italy. It was so beautiful and magical and I couldn’t believe it, but I also felt such joy and such peace — like everything was meant to be, even if it happened so much faster than I ever dreamt. We spent our whole honeymoon talking about babies and names and goals. It was magical.

Photo credit: Gabriela Bell

I lost the baby at 8.5 weeks. She passed away at 7.5 weeks, but I didn’t find out until we had a check-up scan a week later. I was making jokes with my doctor, and I remember he went quiet once he started the scan. Then he turned professional — kind, but professional — and told me that I’d lost the baby.

I couldn’t stop crying. Miscarriage is so heartbreaking in such a complex way. When you find out you’re pregnant, your entire world shifts. And then, suddenly, abruptly, it shatters.

Since it was a missed miscarriage, my body still thought I was pregnant. I remember doubting the doctor, explaining that I was still nauseous and still sleeping funny, so how could the baby be gone? But she was.

I had to do a procedure to remove the embryo. We opted for pills, which is an inpatient procedure here in Italy. The pain was hideous, worse than I was told to expect. My online community helped a lot through all of this. They helped me feel less alone.

I was ready to start right away to have another one — but I think I knew that it was too soon for me, and that I was trying to rush into things just to fill the horrible pain that my miscarriage had left behind. So, my husband and I took some months to heal, to recover, and to find our balance again.

In January, we started looking at IUI – Intrauterine insemination, a type of artificial insemination. I had done some tests which showed that my egg reserve was low, so we worried about how that would impact our potential to carry a pregnancy to full term. We visited with a centre here in Florence and, given my age, they recommended IUI. So we began the process. I went on medicine for my thyroid (my hormones were in the normal range but high for pregnancy). We purchased all the medicines for the shots. And then, while my thyroid levels evened out, we waited a few months.

It was during this time that we actually fell pregnant naturally. I think maybe it’s because I wasn’t stressed anymore, since I knew we were starting IUI. It’s like the mental load was making things so much more difficult for my husband and me. And when we stripped all that away, then things changed.

Seeing those positive lines on the pregnancy test strip was the most beautiful thing. But it’s interesting, because this time my husband was far more cautious. He sprung into logistical action. He called our doctor right away, who put me on certain medicines to help balance my body and make a good home for the baby — things like progesterone, which I used twice a day for all of my first trimester.

My first trimester was a bit rough. I had terrible morning sickness and had to go on anti-nausea medicine for it. I struggled to eat and felt a lot of complex feelings around that, especially given my history of an eating disorder — the last thing I ever wanted was an unexpected “crash diet.” The medicine made my nausea go away, but then it would make me so sleepy. I spent a lot of the first trimester just sleeping.

The second trimester was easy. And the third trimester was magical, because Italy is super supportive of pregnant people. You’re surrounded by love and it’s a beautiful energy. I spent a lot of that time with my partner and his family.

By Christmas, I had a lot of extra amniotic fluid, so I was put on a gestational diabetes type of eating — no sugar, no carbs, and no Prosecco (of course!). I liked to joke that I was on a body builder regime.

Giving birth itself was magical. I’m lucky that I had an easy natural birth. The baby popped out with big healthy lungs and at a solid 3.85 kilograms. And my life has never been the same.

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What advice would you give to individuals or couples who are currently navigating the fertility process?

Lean into who you are as a couple. People will tell you not to stress, but you’re going to stress. And they’ll tell you not to overthink it, but you’ll do that, too, because it’s something you want in such a deep way. So, I’m not going to say those things.

Instead, lean into that other person to support you, to hold space for your emotions, and to help you feel secure even if you yourself are struggling with all the big feelings.

And if you’re doing this alone, while I’m not in a space to speak to that journey, I just want to say that I have infinite respect for you. Becoming a mother is such a powerful, strong calling. But it’s also so complex and hard. You’re so powerful to have made the decision you have.

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Did you encounter any misconceptions or stigmas surrounding fertility or pregnancy? How did you address them?

I wish we talked about fertility a lot sooner. I didn’t know about egg health until I hit my 30s. Nowadays, there’s a real dialogue around women having it all — having a successful career until they’re 30 or 40, and then starting a family. And this is so beautiful and liberating and empowering. But I wish there was also a genuine conversation around how our bodies change with age — not so that we’re forced into some idea of having children in our 20s, but just so we can make informed decisions. We can opt to freeze our eggs, or start our career later, or focus on work while recognizing that maybe having babies might be a bit more difficult. There’s strength in information.

I also wish we felt safer to speak about miscarriages more. Once I had mine and I opened up about it, I received so many messages from friends who told me that they’d had miscarriages, too. I think so many of us are silent because we feel such a shame — but we shouldn’t, especially not when one in every three or four of us experiences it. It happens so much, and it’s hideous, but it’s not something to be ashamed of.

Honestly, having my online community helped me so much after my miscarriage. I was able to talk about things, and the messages I received made me feel less alone. They gave me strength. They also helped me prepare for things — like the pain to expect after I took the pills (which I was told would feel like a “bad period,” but actually felt more like a “lighter labour”). The internet was such a blessing. And I think for so many of us, the offline world could be that, too — but that requires us speaking to each other about what we’ve gone through.

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How has your experience influenced your work as an advocate for fertility, pregnancy awareness, self-love, and motherhood?

Women are incredible. I used to think I understood this, but fertility and pregnancy have given me a whole new appreciation of the immense strength women hold inside. It’s not just the strength required to give birth, but also the strength to navigate a miscarriage, or multiple miscarriages, or a stillbirth, or month after month of peeing on a stick hoping to see two positive lines, or being a single parent, or trying to breastfeed but being unable to, or going night after night without sleep while trying to keep a tiny crying human alive, or speaking about postpartum depression, or living with your heart outside your body because you love your tiny child so much, or on and on and on. All of this is strength.

There’s so much hope and love tied to being a mother, in such a deep and primal way — and navigating it can be so beautiful but also so complex. It requires such power. And women, I know now, have that power.

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How did your perspective on life and your own body change throughout your pregnancy and postpartum period?

I loved being pregnant. I loved my bump and feeling my baby inside of me and all of that. And my recovery after went fairly smoothly. I had the usual things — the sore bits down under, feeling like I was hit by a truck, and so on — but honestly, it was, in the world of pregnancy, fairly easy.

Where I struggled was after giving birth. I really, really wanted to breastfeed. And I had milk. But my right breast became so sick and inflamed with mastitis that the milk wasn’t coming out — it was just getting sicker. I ended up with really high fevers multiple times, and had to do antibiotics, and then shots in my butt twice a day from a nurse coming to my house. It was awful, and I remember feeling so hopeless that I couldn’t feed my baby, that somehow my body was failing. My boobs, in particular, were failing. I had to stop breastfeeding. It was crushing in ways I didn’t understand, and for a while I couldn’t even look at my boobs. I was just so angry with them. And it made me feel stupid and hypocritical — this self-love advocate who was so angry with her body that she was actively avoiding mirrors, or putting on two sports bras so she wouldn’t even feel them.

Photo credit: Gabriela Bell

I ended up speaking with a few really wonderful consultants, including Dr. Sharon Silberstein ( And that helped a lot. She helped me understand that, as with anything, my feelings were valid. And that it’s better to honour what we’re feeling instead of trying to shove those emotions down.

It’s been several months since I stopped breastfeeding, and I definitely feel like myself again. But I’ve also learned a lot — a lot about letting go of control, a lot about respecting my body especially when things become hard, a lot about trusting my intuition, a lot about how being a mom is a series of constantly worrying you’re not doing “enough”… just a lot.

And I think most of all, I’ve learned about being gentle with my body. Pregnancy involves so many big changes all at once. And sometimes we have to release the reigns and just be soft with the shifts as they come.

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What advice would you give to new mothers who may be struggling with their body image or adjusting to their postpartum bodies?

To start with, give yourself time. The first few weeks after giving birth are so full of hormonal changes. I was crying in the kitchen most days while trying to pump. Just crying. Everything felt so big and heavy and weird and exhausting. I realize now that a lot of it, a huge part of it, was just hormones. So be gentle as you navigate those first few weeks.

Also, be gentle with yourself as your body heals. Remember that it took over nine months to grow your tiny human — it’s going to take time for you to feel like yourself again.

Listen to your body. It’s tempting to rush back into things or to want to feel “productive.” But you’ve just had a baby. You’re probably sleep-deprived. You’re keeping a tiny life alive. Literally breathing right now is “productive” — so just breathe. Be with your child. Be with yourself. And let the guilt go.

Fitness will feel different for a long time — and that’s OK. I recommend talking to a pelvic floor specialist or looking at online workouts designed to gently heal your pelvic floor. Stretching is beautiful. Walking is, too. But if you have to choose between exercise and having a moment of sleep? Sleep, rest. Recover. Now is not the season for marathon training. Now is a time to heal.

I know your body looks different right now. And that can be hard. My tummy didn’t feel like mine for months. Even now, it’s different than it was before — it will probably always be different than it was before. And that’s OK. Give yourself grace to feel what you’re feeling. Mourn who you were, if that feels right to you. And then allow yourself to gently, slowly start to move on. Because you’re not that woman you were before your pregnancy. You’re not the same woman you were while pregnant. You’re a new person, in a slightly new version of your body, and you’re meeting yourself all over again.

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