I was twenty-six years old. I expected to stop using birth control and watch a stick tell me the happy news that I was pregnant. After all, every sign pointed to me being a “normally” fertile person. I was young. Never had a sexually transmitted disease. Had fairly regular menstrual cycles. My mother had three daughters without batting an eyelash.
I never expected to be the 1 in 8 that had trouble conceiving.
Unexplained infertility as a diagnosis felt like an additional slap in the face. I so distinctly remember waking up from a fertility surgery to my reproductive endocrinologist telling me everything was fine, beautiful and bursting into tears! I just wanted an answer. Something, almost anything, that could be fixed.
Infertility and Conceiving Took What Seemed Like Forever
Key among the things I didn’t expect was how the experience of infertility was going to drag on and on. And on and on and on. That it would be six and a half years of trying to conceive, in and out of fertility programs, before I would have my daughter.
My husband always asks why I still mention that it’s six and a half years? Couldn’t I just round it down to six years? What’re six more months, really? Simple, it was 78 periods. SEVENTY EIGHT MONTHS. Not seventy two. 78 apex moments of profound disappointment, with so many in-between moments of what I now refer to as profound sadness.
Infertility affected every single aspect of my life, every choice I made, every relationship that I was in. It affected my career, my vacations, my hobbies. It is not an exaggeration to say that in six and a half years, rarely did more than two or three minutes go by where I wasn’t reminded of my childlessness and my perceived barrenness. Even during sleep, I felt little respite, I dreamt of giving birth to squirrels. Cute enough animals, great tails, not what you’re looking for if you’re hoping to become a parent. And yes, infertility humor can get really dark and funky.
My Infertile History
My best friend (since I was 5 years old!) was on her own infertility path, although she was a little farther along. She had started younger and earlier and discovered quickly that things weren’t going as planned. Pamela Madsen was to become a force in the infertility patient world, and I was along on the ride with her. Starting with Resolve NYC, then cofounding The American Infertility Association which quickly became The American Fertility Association, we focused on family building for all people who were trying to conceive, including the LGBTQ community.
I was in pain and oddly enough, I was also in love.
I was in love with the people I connected to through infertility, personally and professionally. The resilience, strength, ability to pick themselves (and myself) up and try again impressed me and moved me, often to tears.
Since then, I’ve been so grateful to work with Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut. For the last 12 years, I’ve worked as their Patient Advocate. I’ve facilitated ten year’s worth of Ladies Night In, a peer support group that is free and open to the public, where women come and share their feelings: hopes, fears, laughter, and tears. I’ve watched friendships develop over the confidential online groups that I moderate, lifelong friendships. Several years ago, we produced a video with several other patient advocates, called “When Perfect Strangers Become Your Best Friends”.
I founded Fertile Yoga eleven years ago and share the practice as a way to manage the stress, sadness, and disappointment that so often accompanies the fertility treatment journey. Just this year, we collected data and wrote an abstract that was submitted to The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). It was accepted as a poster and will be presented at their conference next fall!
Every week, I speak to about eighty women who need a little extra help coping with the rigors of fertility treatment. It is an honor and privilege to be the recipient of their confidences. They know that I don’t judge them and that I’m there as a loving heart to offer relief from the isolation that so many of us feel through the fertility process.
PathtoFertility is a blog that is about to be ten years old. For the first seven and a half (yep, there’s that half a year again) years, I wrote the blog 5 days a week. That’s almost 2,000 blogs. Straight from my heart. Effing Funny Fertile Friday, are probably some of my favorite blogs because laughs during fertility treatment can be hard to come by. PathtoFertility has been the winner of the Healthline Top Fertility for the third year in a row. They have this to say about the blog, ” The Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut maintains this blog, which features a rich mix of personal stories, current news and research, the latest infertility treatments, physician spotlights, prenatal vitamin recommendations, and other useful content. “
State and Federal Advocacy
Two or three times a year, I add my voice and RMA of Connecticut’s to PCOSChallenge, Resolve: The National Infertility Association, and ASRM’s down in Washington, DC. These amazing patient, not for profit organizations organize advocacy days on state and federal levels, to support and help write bills so that people with reproductive disease can have the insurance coverage that all medical diseases deserve.
How lucky am I to have my life’s purpose of helping others build their families also be my career path?
Wego Health Award Nominations
Recently I was nominated for two Wego Health Awards. The categories in which I was nominated were Lifetime Achievement and Patient Leader Hero. Endorse/vote for me, if you want to keep the conversation going about the 1 in 8 people affected by the disease of infertility. https://awards.wegohealth.com/nominees/13768
You Are Not Alone
If you or someone you know is the 1 in 8 faced with infertility, know this: you are not alone. There are so many of us out here who can and will help support you. Not sure who to call? Call me at 2013-240-6122. I will help or I will find the right person for you to speak to who can help.