There are so many different paths to motherhood, and I love hearing personal stories about how women got to be parents, whether by natural methods, fertility treatments, or adoption. Today, I’m the mother of three grade schoolers, but I occasionally look at my kids and remember the difficult and disparaging days when I thought I’d never have them.
My long and bumpy road to motherhood ultimately involved in vitro fertilization (or IVF), which is wonderful when it works but also a harrowing emotional and physical process. I’ve made no secret of my experience, but have by no means publicized it. Understandably, something so private is usually discussed in hushed one-on-one conversations rather than public ones… until now.
At age 39, Bobbie has begun her second round of IVF after the first failed to produce any viable eggs. In a short video piece, Bobbie bares her needle-bruised belly, reveals fears that the procedure may fail again (heartbreakingly saying “she” might fail again), and introduces her doctor, New York City infertility specialist Sheeva Talebian, MD. Watching the segment brought so many memories flooding back…
I was two years younger than Bobbie when my trials began. I got married at 36 and never worried about getting pregnant. I was naïve. When my husband and I finally decided to start a family, we found we couldn’t get pregnant. I spent over a year tracking cycles, doing acupuncture, and cutting things like gluten and dairy out of my diet. When that yielded nothing, we did months of artificial insemination, devastated by one negative result after another. I had a kind and caring doctor but he was not a fertility specialist and I ultimately realized he wasn’t going to get me pregnant. The harsh truth was that I was past my pregnancy prime and I needed to bring in the big guns.
As “phase two” began, my husband and I made the rounds and met with several male fertility specialists in Beverly Hills, where many of the highly touted (and ultra-expensive) medical pros seem to reside. I hated the whole experience and felt I was nothing but a number to these guys. The offices were cold and clinical and left me feeling degraded and hopeless.
Then, I heard from a friend about a local female doctor who successfully got Brooke Shields pregnant. Brooke was one of the first celebrities to go public with her infertility struggles and I’ve often said if I ever meet her, I will give her a big hug for it! I met with Brooke’s doctor who was down-to-earth and no-nonsense. I knew right away she was the right fit for me, which as Bobbie points out is essential. Shortly thereafter, I launched into my first IVF cycle.
Like many women, by the time I got to IVF, I was exhausted and strung out. I had had so many failures, I was sure this wouldn’t work either. I was lucky; it not only worked the first time around, but I got healthy twin boys out of it.
Part of the problem with infertility and IVF is every woman has a different story and outcome. What makes Bobbie’s williness to share her story on “The Today Show” so brave is she does not know how it will turn out. Bobbie also reveals several key things women should understand if they’re considering IVF.
First, it is expensive and there are no guarantees it will work. Bobbie has insurance, but as she points out many women do not. I have friends who spent all their savings and even traveled to Europe for IVF treatments not available in the U.S.
Second, you need to find the right doctor. Feeling emotionally safe during an otherwise vulnerable time is crucial. It has always bothered me that doctors are referred to as infertility specialists rather than fertility specialists — even their title suggests a problem rather than a solution. Regardless, the right doctor will reassure and relax you at a time when you need it most.
Third and perhaps most importantly, you need to realize you’re not alone in your struggles, that other women suffer daily injections, weight gain, hormonal ups and downs, feelings of fear and guilt, and failures. Bobbie’s story is her own, as is mine. The more we share, the less we feel isolated and afraid. The more we hear stories of success, the more we can realize that somehow, someway, some day, you will come out of it with a family.