Isn't it ironic that as we age, for many women, getting pregnant transforms from being our greatest fear into our most burning desire? Having a baby seems like the easiest thing in the world... Until you really, really want it and find that you can't.
Many of you have followed my blog posts over the years, including my five-part series on Freezing My Eggs. When, at 37, I found myself single and staring my waning fertility in the face, I started to panic. Would I ever have the family I so craved?
Then I heard about the possibility of cryopreserving my precious, rapidly decaying oocytes while co-authoring Fortytude with Sarah Brokaw. It took me a year to summon up the courage and financial wherewithal to go through with the procedure, but when I did, I felt overjoyed. The strangling yoke of getting older loosened a bit. I now had an insurance policy. I could relax and enjoy the dating process.
This Saturday, I have the honor of speaking about my egg freezing experience at the Fertility Planit conference in LA. I'm really excited about this event because I feel it gives us an opportunity to lift the veil surrounding fertility issues. Many women struggle to get pregnant. At last half of my closest girlfriends have experienced at least one miscarriage. Many have resorted to IVF and other scientific interventions to have their children. Yet almost none of the women I know -- as loving and openhearted as they are -- truly feel comfortable talking about their infertility issues.
Why is this? Why can't we talk about fertility struggles, miscarriages and the array of options available to people who want children with as much ease as we do, say, seeing a therapist or a medical doctor?
It's up to us to change the status quo. By showing up at this event, talking with our friends and family members about fertility struggles and refusing to be ashamed if we encounter difficulties on the path to pregnancy, we can help thousands of women on their journeys to having a family.
Here, I've gathered advice on coping with fertility issues from just five of the dozens of amazing women, changemakers and infertility experts who will be speaking at the conference this weekend. I hope to see you there!
1) Choose a Winning Team
Photo credit: Sean Hiller
Alice Crisci is the pink-haired, bright-spirited founder of Fertile Action, a non-profit that helps women touched by cancer become mothers. She is a social entrepreneur, published author and young adult cancer advocate.
Be very selective in choosing your infertility team, including your personal support system. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, everyone said, 'You are the CEO of your healthcare team -- choose carefully.' It's the same thing with infertility. If you placed someone on your team who is dismissive or doesn't get your grief, stop sharing or confiding in them. If you have a medical provider who isn't listening to what you want, move on to someone else.
2) Know When to Stop
Photo credit: Lesley Bohm
Tracey Cleantis is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist, psychodynamic psychotherapist and writer. She holds an MA from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Counseling Psychology. Currently, she practices in Valencia and La Crescenta, CA.
If I could share the one piece of wisdom that saved me from physical, spiritual emotional and financial ruin, it would be to start the infertility treatment process knowing that at some point if the treatment isn't working, you will stop. Knowing that there was a limit to what I would do in order to conceive was vital for me. I knew there would be a point when I could no longer endure the pain and disappointment of failed infertility procedures. I would ask myself after every round of IUI, 'Is this my limit?' If my answer was no, I would go on. I went through dozens of IUIs and four full rounds of IVF and a failed adoption before I reached my limit.
I know that many couples have the mindset when they begin treatment to continue until they have their baby, no matter what. However, infertility treatment doesn't work for everyone and knowing that and having reasonable expectations around treatment is, I believe, vitally important. I wanted desperately to have a baby, but after all my heroic efforts failed, it was a comfort to me to have that question in order to check in with myself and see if I could take anymore. I am so grateful that I didn't continue and do more and more and more even though I knew I had reached my personal limit. I would advise anyone to continue to check in with themselves and not to feel pressure to do more than their body, soul, relationships or bank account can handle.
See Tracey's article: "16 Things Not to Say to Someone Childless Not By Choice"
3) Be Open to a Different Path
Photo credit: Lisa Hochberg
Lisa Hochberg is a management consultant, world traveler, reality show star, breast cancer survivor and storyteller. She has appeared multiple times at "Tasty Words," "The Moth" and "Tasty Ta Ta's." Lisa was also recently a featured guest on the Travel Tales Podcast series.
Life rarely goes as planned. Letting go of what you thought your life would look like is key to dealing with infertility. I never envisioned being a 46-year-old cancer survivor who became a single mother with an egg donor, sperm donor and surrogate. I also never envisioned the most perfect baby boy with soulful blue eyes and a sweet smile that lights up a room. My son is a dream come true and I feel very lucky that the science exists to create a child this way. My advice to woman coping with infertility is to be open to a different path. I know it can be heart wrenching to let go... but you just may be surprised at how beautiful your new life can be.
4) Get Informed
Photo credit: Lauren Ross
Stacie Krajchir-Tom is an Emmy-winning television producer. Chronicle Books published Stacie's first two books; she is currently working on an eco lifestyle/entertaining book. She is a contributing lifestyle/trend expert and has been featured in The Washington Post, New York Times, Smart Money Magazine, Pink, Real Simple, Maxim, Esquire and Vanity Fair magazines.
Stacie had a lot to offer. She wrote:
Get informed and trust your instincts. I was surprised by how much I didn't know about my body and all the things that affect fertility and baby making. You can't control fertility, but you can control learning about all the fertility treatments out there right now. Decide where you stand on the ethical issues surrounding fertility treatment so you can make informed decisions rather than emotional based ones in desperate times.
If you are over 35, get tested now. If you are in a relationship or married and plan to have children with your current partner, make an appointment now to have his sperm checked. You have no idea how many friends of mine spent so much time worrying about their eggs, when it turned out to be a sperm-related issue. One third (30%) of infertility can be attributed to male factors, and about one third (30%) can be attributed to female factors. In about 20% of cases infertility is unexplained, and the remaining 10% of infertility is caused by a combination of problems in both partners.
I waited too long to learn all of the above. It wasn't until after my second miscarriage that I listened to my gut instincts and left my OBGYN and headed to HRC and found Dr. Kolb, who schooled me, took a chance with an over 40 case, and got us on track. With the help of IUI (intra-uterine insemination), I became pregnant.
5) Don't Wait for Prince Charming
Photo credit: Philipp Weitz
Brigitte Adams is the Founder/CEO of Eggsurance, the first independent, non-clinic related education and community website devoted to everything egg freezing.
Don't wait for Prince Charming -- your biological clock isn't. We all dream of the white picket fence, children playing on the lawn and a partner at our side. Unfortunately, this may not happen for you. Instead of lamenting your situation, put your chin up and be proactive. Today, egg freezing offers women new choices that our mothers did not have. Freezing your eggs now might ensure the option of children tomorrow. So, stop waiting and own your own fertility.
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