My story of trying to (and eventually having) a baby is like a lot of others who've gone through the twists and turns and ups and downs of infertility.
My partner Emanuel and I expected to get pregnant relatively easily. We poured a lot of thought into the timing and logistics, but infertility wasn't on our radar. I'd spent so many years trying not to get pregnant and then - boom - we wanted to, but it didn't happen instantly like that. Like at all. Instead, month after month of BFNs (Big Fat Negative pregnancy tests), it became more and more painful and all consuming as the distance between our plans and our reality got further and further apart.
THEN THE INFERTILITY DIAGNOSIS WAS LOOMING.
We tried all the things, but we finally tested Emanuel's semen and my AMH, FSH, estradiol and progesterone, plus I did the HSG and transvaginal ultrasounds to eventually find out I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and we have male factor infertility.
I was in disbelief that this was our reality. We kept moving forward while grieving because I was determined to do everything we could.
After speaking with our fertility doctor, donor sperm or IVF or both were the options staring at us in the face from the notes we'd just taken. I was terrified, I'm not going to lie. I consider myself to be a pretty brave person but not when it comes to medical procedures. That was a lot to process.
It was also like entering another door deeper into The Unknown. I just wanted to know if this was going to lead us to the family we wanted and instead so much of life was sitting with the uncertainty and lots of waiting. I craved certainty.
I DESPERATELY WANTED TO BECOME A MOM
Meanwhile, there was a growing disconnect between my reality and the fertility experience of the people around me. They got and stayed pregnant easily. This affected my relationships. I felt misunderstood living in a fertile world, and lonely despite being very open with all my friends and family and anyone who would listen about how challenging infertility was. It helped to know I was making a difference by sharing and breaking down myths and taboos, but I was still hurting from that burning desire to finally step into my role as a mom. I didn't really know who I was anymore.
INFERTILITY IS AN IDENTITY DISRUPTER
Triggers were everywhere, adding to the pain and life disruption; they were strollers on sidewalks, diaper commercials, and pregnancy announcements on Instagram, to name a few.
We went down the donor path and then changed course to try IVF with our own genetic material (Emanuel's sperm and my eggs). We did a couple rounds with PGT-A and ICSI. I ended up with OHSS twice, blood clotting issues and other complications on the way, and even though I was grateful that the technology and medical advancement existed and were accessible (enough) to us, I'd be lying if I said it was easy.
Plus, there was the financial burden. There were and still are no financial supports provincially in BC unlike in Ontario where Emanuel and I had come from where there is one publicly funded round of IVF and publicly funded IUI.
I noticed so many gaps in accessibility, support and within the healthcare system, despite all of Women's Health research and systems expertise to understand the fertility world and navigate the research. I was asking myself how others must be coping.
I KNEW I WASN'T ALONE IN STRUGGLING
Through it all, I was also making a career change to becoming a certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation. In my past work I felt removed from the people I was serving, and coaching was very hands-on.
As I was experiencing the ripple effects of infertility penetrating every area of my life, I noticed that the coaching tools and coaching relationship was helping my fertility journey so much, so why not use all of that to help others like this lovely couple? I had system knowledge and I cared deeply about others in a similar boat.
It was talking with someone in a coaching conversation about an entirely different topic when I shared about my infertility and IVF experience and in passing, and then they confided in me that they had just experienced a miscarriage through IVF.
That gave me the 'aha moment' and it was clear what I wanted to support people like them. It was crystal clear.
So, I married my coaching practice with my Women's Health research background and fertility.
I BECAME THE POCKET FERTILITY COACH I'D WISH I'D HAD
Boom. Mic drop - but not really because it was just the beginning in 2017.
I also took it to another level because my work in coaching was always going to include humour and play because it helped me on my journey.
THERE'S ALWAYS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR JOY & LAUGHTER
There's a backstory that informed this part of my offering. Many years ago my mom was beginning her own career transition as a Physical and Occupational Therapist (they were combined back then) to becoming a Humour Therapist. Tragically, right after her first workshop she died suddenly when I was 15. Since then, I've taken on her legacy in a way whenever I post my funny content on Instagram aimed at bringing lightness and validation for those going through fertility struggles and with some of my clients using a form of humour therapy and play. It gives my work even more meaning.
WHAT I DO IN SESSIONS AS A CERTIFIED FERTILITY COACH DEPENDS ON MY CLIENT'S NEEDS
For over 6 years as a fertility coach, I've taken my fertility expertise and being plugged into the fertility world knowing what's common and what's not, to support clients tas an IVF doula, to make fertility decisions in all areas of their lives, to provide tools to manage the waiting and various relationships challenges, and find more of a balance and joy in life.
I personalize my approach to each client because everyone's needs and fertility journey is unique.
ADDITIONAL INFERTILITY RESOURCES IN BRITISH COLUMBIA
It's wonderful that The Butterfly Run is starting to facilitate workshops for people experiencing infertility, with more resources to come.
This Facebook Group for those with primary infertility (no living children) and secondary infertility (have one or more living child) which I co-Admin and is completely free.
-Primary infertility group
-Secondary infertility group
Fertility Matters Canada also has resources.
I hope you find your way if you're knee deep in your fertility chapter.
You're not alone.