‘There’s no way I won’t be a mother’: Manrina Rhode on trying for a child

In a very honest discussion, Manrina Rhode discusses her challenging journey of trying for a child, how it’s affected her emotionally and how she balanced the journey with opening her clinic.

Please introduce yourself

My name is Dr Manrina Rhode. I am an aesthetic dental surgeon straight from graduating.

In 2002, I graduated from Guy’s Hospital and I came straight into private aesthetic dentistry. So I’ve been doing that for 20 years.

I was voted Dentist of the Year last year, so I feel like that’s the pinnacle of my career so far.

Last year I opened my dream clinic, DRMR Clinic, which is all my dreams come true.

How do you feel when the subject of motherhood comes up in conversation?

Motherhood is always an interesting one for me. I’m turning 44 this month in March and I’ve wanted to have a child since I was a child. I look forward to being a mother.

That’s not happened for me. I think there’s lots of interesting aspects with it.

Obviously there’s hanging out with your friends. There’s a show on Netflix called Motherhood, I think. I was with some other dental colleagues the other day, and they said: ‘Oh, you have to watch Motherhood, it’s so brilliant’.

I thought I’d go home and watch it tonight. And then I was like, oh no, this isn’t brilliant for me. I don’t love it, I don’t get it. This isn’t my experience.

I didn’t even get through the first 10 minutes of the show.

I started working with a dental business coach and they said: ‘I’ve written a book about female principals. As a new female principal, would you like to read that?’ I thought, ‘yeah, that would be great’ and I read it immediately.

It was very much about women managing their family lives and their businesses. And so I didn’t feel like it was a book that was relevant to me. I’m not managing a family life alongside my business.

It was interesting that, even though he knew that I didn’t have children, he still sent me a book about female principles and why they struggled because of their family guilt.

‘There’s no way that I’m going to go through my life and not be a mother’

My career’s always been very important, but I found that as an associate I was able to push really hard on my career. I had all these extracurricular activities, but still look after myself.

I think a lot of people are brought up to believe that you get married and you have kids, and that’s the way that your life pans out. And it’s not that that was enforced on me.

That’s why I believe that that needed to be my journey, that genuinely is the journey that I would like to have. I love being a wife. I was a wife – I’m now divorced.

When people look back and say to me: ‘Oh, now you’re divorced, are you happier now?’ – I think, no, not really.

It was something that I was really proud of. I’m massively nurturing, anyone that knows me knows that. It’s probably why my patients like me so much because I care about them.

I want the best for everyone. I want the best for the people around me, for my loved ones, for my family. It’s part of my personality to want to do things for people and to get a lot of joy from that.

So to be a mother, to me, is obvious. There’s no way that I’m going to go through my life and not be a mother. I’ve gone through this journey and I’ve tried to have children, and for one reason or another, it’s not happened for me.

There’s nothing wrong with me physically. I’m able to conceive but it’s not happening. And maybe that’s a whole new conversation about that journey that I’ve been through or why I’ve got here. But obviously adoption’s also an option that’s open to me.

Would you say you put your career on hold while trying for a child?

So working as an associate, I was pushing really hard, giving myself time to be my best self and to also create that part of my dream, which was to be a wife and to be a mother. When I was in a relationship, to give time to my partner without being tired or being stressed.

It sounds a bit archaic to describe it like that, but it was important to me. It’s what I saw in my parents, and it’s who I wanted to be.

So I remained as an associate. Probably from the age of 25, I had all these ideas about this super clinic that I wanted to build that’s now here and I started building those ideas. So for 19 years, I’ve been planning this clinic in my head but not taking the step to move.

I hadn’t previously taken the step to move from associate to principal because, when I spoke to my other dental friends who had bought their own clinics, they said to me: ‘You’ve got a great life. This clinic is going to take over your life. Keep your life as it is. You’ve got a great salary, you’ve got a great life, you’ve got a great work-life balance.’

I don’t think it was incorrect advice. I think it was really caring advice. For me, it’s also wanting to pursue those other parts of my life of getting married and having a child. So I kept that going as I stayed as an associate until I hit 40.

And then Covid-19 hit and everyone kind of had this big mindset change of, ‘am I living my best life?’ And realised that I needed to open my own clinic. I had to put all those ideas that I had in my head onto paper.

‘I couldn’t keep waiting’

At 32 or 33 I started trying to have a child, and then I hit 40. So many things had happened in those years. I then thought, how long do I put this off?

I know that stress is a major factor in conceiving. And so now as a 40-year-old woman who wants to have a child and still hasn’t, do I want to add this added stress in my life?

But then I also thought, if I leave it, and if I wait until 50 and potentially hit menopause and know that I can’t have a child anymore, at that stage do I open my clinic?

But then what are my stress levels going to be like then at 50 trying to create this dream? Will I feel annoyed that I left it so late?

So I made a conscious decision during that Covid-19 time that I couldn’t keep waiting. But I would still love to meet the right person to be my life partner. I would still love to be a mother of a child.

At the beginning of this interview, I said to you, ‘my beautiful clinic, all my dreams came true’. And immediately something sparked in my head and I thought, ‘you just said something false, that isn’t all your dreams come true’.

That dream definitely includes a baby. I still want those things, but I couldn’t put my life on hold anymore waiting for them.

Do you wish you had opened your clinic any sooner? And do you have any advice for younger women in dentistry?

A lot of people ask me about my clinic like, ‘oh, how do you feel now you’ve done it?’. My answer’s always, ‘oh, probably should have done it earlier’.

It’s what my patients say all the time when I do their small makeover. They say, ‘the only thing is I wish I’d done it earlier’. So you don’t ever regret doing something more for your life.

And maybe if I’d done it in my twenties everything would be more established. Or maybe my journey would’ve been the same. Maybe I needed to go through this journey

I don’t think I would’ve been able to build something like this if I’d opened my clinic any sooner. I think I needed those 20 years behind me to really create something like this. – I don’t like to have regrets and I don’t think I have any regrets. Everything happened at the right time. But I don’t think I could have waited anymore.

My advice for younger women is maybe freeze your eggs. A lot of my friends froze their eggs at about 35 when they suddenly realised they were single at 35, and they were nervous about conceiving.

If anyone had told me at 25 to go and freeze my eggs, I would’ve thought ‘yeah, alright, like I’m going to spend five, 10 grand and go through hormone injections and all of that for something that may or may not even happen…’ It’s definitely not on your radar.

But with hindsight, if you could look back – and there’s a lot of big companies right now supporting their staff to freeze eggs – that’s something that I think is not spoken about enough. It’s really valuable.

How has this journey affected you emotionally?

When I was trying to conceive – I still am – my family and my friends were amazing. I’m really well supported.

My mum is amazing. She’s a very intelligent, powerful woman who says all the right things. I know she would do anything for me. She’s really been there with me through this journey.

I felt very supported. It’s definitely been emotional. I’m generally not very good at showing vulnerability in life.

There definitely have been times through this that have upset me. For example, when I got my period while trying. Now it’s been going on so long that I think I’m okay with it.

I’ve been trying for 10 years, so at some point you’ve got to stop going through periods of not eating sushi, not drinking coffee and not drinking alcohol.

The most difficult part is going through this journey that’s changed so much of my life for a baby that’s not here.

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