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The Moment: Amanda Whitley

Ginger Gorman

Welcome to The Moment, our new fortnightly podcast with award winning social justice journalist, Ginger Gorman. In our first episode, Ginger talks to HerCanberra’s founder, Amanda Whitley, to discover the moment that changed her life…and led to the website being created five years ago.

When you become a public figure, it’s easy for people to think they know you and your story.

Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Amanda Whitley, the founder of HerCanberra.

You wouldn’t know, for example, that 43-year-old Amanda grew up in a housing commission house in Tarcutta, a small town of less than 300 people situated on the Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney.

Nor would you know that Amanda is a qualified Zumba teacher, or that despite publishing her first magazine at the age of just 11, she thinks of herself as anaccidental entrepreneur” and is adamant that she “never planned to be a business owner.”

Meeting Amanda, with her low-key and pleasant manner, you would never have any indication that her road to being a mother was a traumatic and treacherous one, laced with the grief of losing her first pregnancy in 2003. And then five years later fearing–with good reason–for the life of her second daughter, Sophia, who was born prematurely with health complications at just 30 weeks.

During Amanda’s first pregnancy blood tests revealed an alarmingly high level of parathyroid hormone in her system.

“I was sent to an endocrinologist. He revealed I had a (benign) tumour on my parathyroid gland and it would need to be surgically removed while I was in my second trimester.

“Sadly, I miscarried at eight weeks, making the surgery less dangerous, but traumatising us nonetheless,” Amanda says.

Amanda and her husband Drew assumed that because they had become pregnant so easily the first time, it would be a breeze the second time around. They were wrong.

“For the next 18 months we tried without success to conceive.

“While my professional career went from strength to strength, I couldn’t achieve the one thing I desperately wanted,” Amanda says.

In the end, their first daughter Olivia was born in July 2006 via artificial reproductive technology (ART).

This was such a joy, Amanda says, that she “threw myself into motherhood.”

Amanda’s next pregnancy was a terrifying one. She had a huge bleed at 14 weeks and then, at 25 weeks, felt extremely ill and took the day off work.

“In the early hours of the morning after, I woke up and was bleeding,” Amanda says.

On the way to the hospital, Amanda assumed her trip to the hospital would be a short one, but it stretched into many weeks.

“All they knew was that I was bleeding but they didn’t know why,” she says, and “the rationale was that I needed to be in hospital just in case something really bad happened.”

“I went into labour at 30 weeks and one day, and Sophia was born weighing 1.43kg on 31 July 2008.

“She had to be intubated…She was on oxygen for nine weeks, had two blood transfusions, and there were days I thought she would never come home,” Amanda explains.

“It was really upsetting seeing her for the first time [and] seeing her in NICU [the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit] because these babies are connected to so many tubes,” she recalls.

Sophia was born weighing just 1.43kg.

Sophia was born weighing just 1.43kg.

After a few very close calls and 10 weeks in NICU at the Canberra Hospital, Sophia did come home. But that was just the beginning.

Sophia’s birth completely changed Amanda’s life – and the life of her family. To hear Amanda telling journalist Ginger Gorman this story, listen to our brand new podcast.

You can subscribe to The Moment, our brand new fortnightly podcast here or on iTunes.

Do you know a Canberra woman with a powerful, life-changing moment?

Nominate them by emailing [email protected]

In your email, don’t forget to tell us:

  • The person’s name, phone number and email address
  • Briefly explain why you are nominating them (no need to write War and Peace – a few sentences will be great)
  • Your own contact details
  • Oh, and make sure you check with the person first!
Sophia today.

Sophia today.

Photograph of Ginger: Richard Tuffin – AtRT Photos


Ginger Gorman

Ginger Gorman is a fearless and multi award-winning social justice journalist. She has an innate ability to connect and communicate with some of the most interesting and marginalised people in our community. Ginger works hard to translate those untold stories into powerful and insightful journalism. She regularly writes stories, makes radio and TV for media outlets such as: news.com.au, Fairfax online, The Guardian, The Big Smoke, HerCanberra and the ABC. You can follow Ginger on Twitter @GingerGorman. More about the Author

  • Susan Arney

    Loving ‘The Moment’…such strong & resilient women despite so many personal, life changing events. Thank you Amanda, Ginger & Her Canberra for sharing.
    ps: Sophia is such a sweetie, love the picture! ?

    • Amanda Whitley

      Thanks so much, Susan – hard to believe it was nearly eight years ago that we met you and the other NICU angels!

      • Susan Arney

        Surely not Amanda! Have you accelerated her age? I don’t think we’re 8 years older…?