Here I am! My name is Stephanie and this is my very first blog post ever. Like, EVER. I saw that this week was National Infertility Awareness Week and that there was an invitation to blog and knew that I couldn’t pass it up. I HAD to write something, anything, to connect with others over the impact that this disease has had on my life.

I didn’t start trying to have a family until I was well over 40 (almost 42, to be exact). I knew that because of my age, it would likely be a difficult, emotional process, and it most certainly was. Looking back, my journey was not as arduous as it could have been. It took us a year from the time we started trying for a family to the happy month that we successfully conceived our son, Charlie. That year included a miscarriage, a chemical pregnancy, a diagnosis of Diminished Ovarian Reserve, and lots of emotional ups and downs – but still, it was just a year.

Despite the emotional roller coaster that that year put me through, I didn’t seek out a support system to help me.

I told myself while trying to conceive that since my friends had all had their children years ago they didn’t understand what it was like to try to have a baby at my age. Therefore, I chose not to reach out to them in any meaningful way for support. I did meet some nice women in online infertility communities, but didn’t significantly reach out to them either, saying that I didn’t really know them very well.

Infertility is an isolating disease, yes, but I perpetuated that feeling by further isolating myself.

Keeping things to myself happened after getting pregnant as well. After the initial euphoria of knowing a baby was coming, I quietly went about my pregnancy, delivery and the first year of motherhood. I didn’t WANT to tell people we had struggled. I didn’t WANT to admit that I had 40+-year-old eggs. I didn’t WANT to broadcast that there was something wrong with me, especially when it seemed like none of my friends struggled to have their children. I told myself that it wasn’t that I was ashamed, but that I was just more of a private person, and that family building was a private matter.

One woman I met online, however, refused to let me be an island. Melina invited me to join another smaller and more private online group, which I did. There I met five amazingly kind and compassionate women, and we talk, every day, about many things going on in our lives, not just trying to conceive. Melina also supported me through my miscarriage via emails and texts. She continually checked in with me about my efforts in family building, asked pointed questions, and called me on it if I was trying to avoid answering them. Melina held me accountable. She forced me to let her support me, and I’m so grateful that she did.

In fact, I hold Melina responsible for the fact that I have a child today. Okay, my husband had something to do with it too, but Melina is the one who doggedly encouraged me to call a fertility specialist. I wouldn’t have had the courage to make that call on my own. Each and every day, I thank my lucky stars that she did that, because if I hadn’t made that call, I know that Charlie would not be part of my life. Melina and I have never met in person, but I consider her one of my dearest friends, and hope that I am half the friend to her that she is to me. I owe her such a debt of gratitude.

 

2014dec-family-photoMy journey through infertility has opened up new doors for me, and taking me in a direction in which I never dreamed I would go. Before my pregnancy I started a program to earn a health coaching certification, with the intention of becoming a coach to help busy professionals eat better and be less stressed out. My pregnancy and Charlie’s subsequent arrival delayed me in starting a coaching business. Holed up in the house during the long, cold winter days immediately after Charlie’s birth, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to accomplish with my coaching business. I realized that healthy eating and clean living were huge for me in not only successfully conceiving and delivering a healthy baby at the age of 43, but doing so without requiring invasive medical intervention. I felt called upon to share what I have learned through my own fertility journey to help others who are struggling. I knew in my heart and soul that this is the essence of my coaching practice.

I’m now full steam ahead, launching and growing my business. I’ve almost completed earning a Fertility Counselor certification to complement my health coaching certification and augment the services I’m able to offer clients. As part of my work with a business coach, I created a video about my business, put it on YouTube, AND promoted it through my social media channels. I was terrified of doing this! My first thought was, oh my God, people I know are going to see this. Not only could I not retreat into the background, I willingly put myself out there, old eggs and all, for the world to see. It was hard just to read my story out aloud to record the narration for the video. I was really afraid that my friends and family members would think less of me for struggling with infertility. But, I held my breath and pressed “submit” to broadcast my story to the world.

Once the video was posted, I received so much positive feedback, from friends and family members, as well as people that I didn’t even know from all over the country. My story also resonated so much with the business coach that I earned a free scholarship to work with her. But the most satisfying reaction was the one that I had within myself. I felt liberated, empowered. I didn’t have to hide my story anymore. I owned my story. Through not isolating myself I’ve discovered that now it doesn’t matter if people know I grapple with infertility, and infertility does not define me. You can see my video here.

I’ve come a long way from suffering in silence to openly sharing my story with strangers. Now that I’ve been on both sides of the fence, I have to say that while opening up is scary, it is a lot less painful than suffering in silence. I liken it to taking off a Band-Aid – it’s extremely difficult and stings at first but then you feel really good. Suffering in silence, on the other hand, is a dull, chronic pain that never goes away.

Yep, my infertility journey was just a year, but one that truly changed my life on many levels.

You Are Not Alone. Your spouse or partner, family, friends, medical team, support groups, faith-based communities or other support systems are all here to help you. And I’m here to help you, too.

Thanks for reading my first-ever post! This blog will eventually move over to my website and I hope you’ll jump right over there with me. Please join my mailing list at http://www.spiceoflifewellness.com, visit me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.

For more information about fertility and National Infertility Awareness Week:

http://www.resolve.org/about-infertility/what-is-infertility/ (Basic understanding of the disease of infertility.)
http://www.resolve.org/national-infertility-awareness-week/about.html (About NIAW)