The other F-word: No, it’s not the f-bomb, or even my least favorite, “fat.” I’m referring to “fertility,” a topic that has been at the center of my life since shortly after my wedding last year. While starting a family is something my husband, Michael, and I are excited about, the journey to get there has, so far, been a little different than what we anticipated.
When it became clear that IVF was our best bet for conceiving, I went through a number of emotional reactions — scared, sad, optimistic, overwhelmed, eager, nervous, and then through all of them all over again. (And this was before I actually started taking hormones!) I, like many women, have had numerous friends and colleagues struggle with fertility issues and I have heard both the heartbreaking and happy endings. So I tried my best to buckle up and hit this thing head-on, hoping for the best.
I’m very fortunate to have an amazing doctor and team of professionals helping me navigate the ups and downs of IVF. But there are certain things everyone can tell you about the process, and it’s not until you experience them yourself that you really understand. For example, I knew about the needles. I did. I knew shots were going to be involved and yet, that first night, after our nurse demonstrated to Michael how to administer them to me, I promptly passed out on the bathroom floor before he got within a foot of me. And my crippling fear of needles was only the start (and something I learned to get over fast since those suckers come out every day, twice a day, and three times when there’s blood work involved!).
There’s also: the changes in diet (eat organic if you can, fewer carbs, more veggies, alkaline-friendly foods, limit sugar and I hope you like salmon, so much salmon…); the supplements (don’t forget to take ALL of them, every day); the acupuncture (helps if you’re able to get there 2 or 3 times a week… and have you heard of cupping?). Also, cut back on work and make sure to get great sleep. But don't forget your monitoring appointments every other morning at 7 a.m. Got all that? Good, because the most important thing is to not stress. This last part I’m pretty sure is some kind of cruel joke because there’s also the IVF weight gain. Unfortunately, being a part of the public eye really didn’t help with this last one.
I love my job as a “professional girlfriend” and feel blessed that I am able to pursue my passion and spread “the buzz” on platforms like TODAY. I have always tried to accept the comments and criticisms that come with appearing on national television. But it’s hard to not be human when someone asks on social media, “baby bump or burrito?” in reference to your changing body on TV.
I’ve long spoken out on the importance of embracing your body and feeling comfortable in your skin because it’s an essential part of your self-expression and how you communicate to the world. I aim to practice what I preach, but couldn’t help wondering, when this question kept popping up more and more, if I should say something about the IVF. I worried that, without context, people would think there was something wrong, that I was depressed, off my game, or just lazy.
Additionally, I was starting to notice that when I did tell friends or colleagues about the treatments, I often found myself whispering. As if “IVF” was something to be ashamed of rather than an increasingly common way many couples are conceiving. More often than not, “I’m so sorry” has been the response I’ve received when telling someone that I am about to start my second round of treatments. Sure, it’s not glamorous. It’s painful and expensive, and occasionally causes me to act like a hormonal rage monster. But it’s also a wonderful, amazing, life-changing medical advancement that has the ability to bring so much joy to so many families.
So I decided that I wanted to share my journey with social media, with Today.com, with other women out there — hopeful moms-to-be and their partners. And when I posted to my Facebook page that I was not pregnant, but was hoping to become so with the help of IVF, I was astounded by the outpouring of love and encouragement from people who I’ve never even met. It was as if an instant sisterhood of support sprang up on my computer screen. There are so many kind, strong women out there who have gone through what I’m going through, and many more who will one day. I hope that by talking about it as something we’re proud of, we can lean on and learn from each other.
I will continue to interact on Facebook with any of you who want to share stories, vent, or offer suggestions to those of us struggling with fertility issues and I’ll document more of my personal journey on Bobbie.com. I hope that, if this is a topic that affects you or someone you love, you’ll join our clan.