I took my fertility for granted expecting that it would be waiting for me when I was ready. Like many, I was conditioned at school, by the media and my environment into thinking that pregnancy would happen easily. Even though I was in a serious relationship in my twenties, I believed that an unplanned pregnancy would topple my dreams of an illustrious career climbing the corporate ranks and traveling the world.
Birth control and the occasional plan B were just as much a part of my diet as the hors d’oeuvres that were served at the swanky corporate events that I was either hosting or attending. I came to find that after several years of planning experiences and events catering to wealthy people, very little began to surprise me. Despite this, I was always thrown off guard when asked whether I had children because it was the furthest thing from my mind. Then once I got married in my early thirties, my ring seemed to beckon the natural follow up question of whether and when I was planning to have children, from both friends and strangers alike. It wasn’t until after one year of not not trying that this age-old question evolved into a thorny trigger. At that point when I was asked if I had little ones, a little voice inside of my head would ask, why don’t I have kids or one on the way yet?
Following the advice of a friend who asked the same question, and albeit annoyed, I answered honestly. She suggested I should see the Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) that had helped her achieve pregnancy just to make sure that everything was working. I didn’t do any research; I just made an appointment. And just like that, I fell into my infertility journey. I just didn’t know that yet.
Over the course of three years, I came to work with five REs, across two states, had five treatments, three of which were IVF. After my fourth treatment and second failed IVF with my fourth doctor, I was diagnosed with the non-diagnosis of unexplained infertility. I was left reeling emotionally because I somehow thought IVF would be a guarantee and what was almost worse than not having a baby yet, I still didn’t know what issue was preventing me from having one. I was further blindsided when my doctor had said, “we should try a third IVF and if you fail again, I don’t think that I can help you”.
I felt ashamed that I needed help and guilty because I thought it must be my fault that all of the medical help that I was relying on, wasn’t working. I was also exhausted by the burden of being branded as infertile for reasons that could not be explained. As a result, before I began my third IVF cycle, I took a break and researched how I could proactively contribute to my overall wellness during my journey. Part of that was a whole foods diet and supplements, lifestyle and seeking out community which is why I started my blog, Fertilust. In addition to self-care and finding support, I found a new doctor. I believe that the trifecta was largely responsible for my IVF success and the birth of my daughter who is now 2 ½.
New to all things fertility or have a friend or family member who is looking for support? Although there are more resources available than ever, they aren’t always easy to find. Here are 6 tips on how to navigate fertility treatments and find community:
Understand that you are not alone.According to the CDC, one of every eight couples in the US struggle to get pregnant or sustain a pregnancy
Do your research. Finding a doctor that you vibe with, has a clinic history of strong live birth outcomes and is attached to excellent labs is key. FertilityIQ is a great resource.
Advocate for yourself.If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. No one, not even your doctor knows your body better than you do, so please speak up!
Be good to your mind and body.Nourish your mind and body with whole foods, quality supplements and a self-care practice that feels good to you. Self-care can be as simple as doing one kind thing for yourself each day – whether it’s meditating, taking a bath or just making yourself a smoothie. Looking for a fertility diet, fertility optimizing supplements and wellness tips? Look no further than Premama which is launching a private group to foster a supportive community for your health and wellness.
Set boundaries.Your mental health is important and it is okay not to be okay sometimes. It’s normal to feel agitated by well-intentioned individuals who dole out unhelpful advice beginning with “just or at least” such as just relax or at least now you know. Consider making it clear to friends and loved ones that you will ask for counsel if you want it and that you will share details when (and if) you are ready to offer them. Let people know that they can support you with encouraging reminders (such as I am rooting for you,) and lending a listening ear.
Find your tribe.Infertility is often referred to as the club that no one wants to join but that has the best members. From pregnantish, the first-ever online magazine dedicated to infertility, and fertility-focused club memberships including Fertility Rally and The Fertility Tribe, as well as RESOLVE which advocates for infertility awareness and hosts local events, there is a support group available for everyone. Additionally, one-one support by way of fertility coaches including Loree Johnson and Rebekah Rosler can support members of the community as a result of their professional expertise and their own experiences with infertility.
Written by Nathalie Carpenter @Fertilust