Kirsty Lee lives with her fiance in Melbourne, Australia. She met her partner at work, and the two quickly realized they were a good match....
When Dani and her husband moved to Denver three years ago, they knew they’d be starting their journey to build a family. They found a place with enough space for a couple of kids, and made sure they were close enough to family. “We really wanted to establish a home,” Dani said. She and her husband began trying to conceive in August of 2018. “Based on the little amount of family planning I did with my previous primary care doctor, I thought that we could just get off birth control and get pregnant,” Dani said. She expected that it would take 6 months maximum to get pregnant.
Dani was very disappointed when a year went by and she still hadn’t gotten pregnant. She went to a new OBGYN, who said, “we’re not going to play around”. Dani immediately went on Clomid. She did four cycles on Clomid that were not successful. “It had a really strong effect on me, physically, mentally, and emotionally. So I was really excited to get off of that,” Dani said. That’s when she decided to go to a fertility specialist for more help. She had some testing done with the fertility doctor, who told them that the next step was an IUI cycle. They did two IUI cycles which both failed. “At that point, we made a decision based on how we were feeling. We were overwhelmed- there was a lot of running back and forth from appointments to work, lots of medications, and stress. We decided it was time to take a break,” Dani said. A week after they decided to take some time off from fertility treatments, the COVID shutdown began. They felt thankful to not be in the middle of a cycle at that time.
When Dani reflects on her fertility experience so far, one thing that stands out is the lack of information about how to plan your family. “I think that doctors ask pretty basic questions about your thoughts on family planning, but that’s pretty much it,” she said. She thinks there should be more awareness about things to look out for in your body, and things you should start doing if you think you want to have kids. “Doctors aren’t proactive about fertility until you go into the office and say, ‘things aren’t working’,” Dani said. They should be letting you know ways to track periods and ovulation, and how to look out for underlying issues.
Dani also believes there’s a real gap in emotional support when it comes to getting fertility treatments at a clinic. “I feel like it is a huge disservice to men and women that you’re going in for such intense treatment and procedures, and getting disappointing results, pumped up with different medications, sometimes having surgeries, with no emotional support system,” Dani said. “You don’t have anyone from that clinic, that understands how those processes work, to sit down and provide some sense of comfort with you, and empathize with you about the struggles along the way.” She strongly believes that there should be a counselor (or two) in house at these clinics to acknowledge what patients are feeling, and help them figure out the next steps. Dani reflected on her last failed IUI and said, “After our second failed IUI, I was super emotional, and really disappointed. When I called the clinic to inform them about the negative test, they were like, ‘okay, so do you want to schedule another one or do you want to move on to IVF?’” Then, she sent an email requesting a meeting with her doctor to regroup and discuss her plan. She was told that she’d already had that conversation- three months prior- and that she should only have to speak with the doctor if she’s ready to move forward with IVF. Through this experience, Dani felt that she really didn’t have the support she needed. She thinks that this is a common problem when it comes to fertility treatments.
Before going into fertility treatments, Dani had no idea how many people had experienced what she was going through until she began speaking about it. She started with friends and co-workers. “It’s amazing how many people relate to you once you open the door to that conversation,” she said. Once she began sparking that conversation, so many people expressed going through similar things. “You start to hear more stories that normalize your experience. You begin to recognize that there are so many people who didn’t just get pregnant over night,” she said. One day, Dani was crying at work while talking about her frustrations and disappointments around infertility, and her friend suggested that she should start blogging about it. It could serve as an outlet for her, and give her a chance to connect with other people, and help them realize that they’re not alone. She started following a few people on Instagram, and spoke with her husband to make sure he was on board with her sharing their story. They decided it was a good idea, and Dani started sharing their experience on her Instagram page. “I slowly started putting it out there, and added in some educational content to it, and really shared the raw emotional side,” she said.
People from around the world started reaching out to Dani, sharing their stories with her, thanking her for being so open, and offering their support. Members of Black community began reaching out to Dani, saying, ‘I’m so glad I found your page, because there’s not a lot of people who look like us talking about this.’ Dani realized she was showing people that they are not alone. Her sharing was empowering others. “People are listening,” she said. “They’re connecting, they’re sharing, and they’re feeling more supported. And at the same time, I’m feeling more supported.” Dani is currently taking a break from fertility treatments but still shares on her platform in order to provide that support and guidance for her followers. She said, “My platform is a balance of fun things that I’ve always wanted to talk about, which is beauty and fashion, while also staying true to the people who found me through my fertility posts.” Dani is a licensed clinical social worker: “I found a new way to exercise my skills, in providing support to a community who I can really, truly relate to, and who I believe there’s not enough support for,” she said. “The words I’m putting out there are the words I’m telling myself constantly.” She provides encouragement, and hopes to inspire strength.
Dani believes that we need to work to be more inclusive and conscious of all the different paths people take to build families. “It’s important to recognize that many of the statements we regularly make towards women and girls about how families are made, and how babies are made, are not always considerate. We need to have conversations that normalize something that is so common,”, Dani said. Questions about when people are having kids, or why they don’t have kids, can actually be very harmful. “Those statements are so old school, and we have to stop saying that. It’s a really sensitive topic, and it really minimizes the experiences that people have. Everyone makes decisions based on their life circumstances. There are so many complexities in starting a family,” Dani said. Everyone’s family building looks different, and we need to work to support and normalize every path to parenthood. “There’s a lot of pressure that people put on themselves, and the outside pressure doesn’t help at all. We really don’t know someone’s true inner battles,” Dani said, “If anyone is hitting a rough patch in their journey, and feeling a little lost, that’s the time that you really need to reach out to a support network. If you don’t have one yet, it’s not too late to start one.”
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