By: Isabella Brown
After Heather Martinez began facing fertility obstacles, she wanted to find other women going through similar experiences. Realizing there is strength in communities, Heather started her unconventional support group to serve as a space for women to socialize, express themselves, and heal.
Heather’s fertility journey began when she was in her twenties.
She got married young, and was not initially ready to have kids. Although they were not actively trying to conceive, she and her husband had taken no measures to prevent pregnancy. They never got pregnant, even after a few years of marriage. Heather decided she should see a doctor to get a medical opinion on this. She was 23 at the time, and the doctor told her “it’ll happen when it happens.” However after a few more years, it still hadn’t happened. Finally, her gynecologist referred her to a reproductive endocrinologist who informed her that she was, in fact, struggling with infertility. This news was heartbreaking to Heather, who felt the doctors “made it official that something was wrong.”
Heather decided that the best way to combat this struggle was through the support of others who would understand what she was going through.
This was around the time that Heather started Pineapple Squad a new kind of support group. It started out as a social group: the members would eat meals together, go out for drinks, have paint sessions, and once even participated in a local walk for infertility. The group was about women getting together, sharing stories, and supporting one another. In the past year, the group has evolved. Heather has incorporated a more traditional support element to the group, as well as an online platform. She has also worked to include men in the group, especially through one-on-one meet ups with other men. The Pineapple Squad now supports men and women in different ways, depending on what is best for them.
“It’s nice to see that you have other women who get you,” she said while speaking about her experience with The Pineapple Squad.
“It helps you to heal, knowing that you’re not the only one.” The Pineapple Squad is a community in which anyone struggling with infertility can feel comfortable and understood. The group allows people to form friendships with others who are going through similar things. When asked what her primary goal for The Pineapple Squad was, Heather said, “I’d like to give them a safe space, to let them know that they can share and that our group is an open place for them to be themselves." Some people may not be comfortable sharing their fertility stories to others who can’t really relate to what they are going through. The Pineapple Squad gives these individuals a space in which they can share their stories, and know that those who are listening understand where they’re coming from.
While she was building The Pineapple Squad, Heather was also working on her own fertility. She did two IUIs, both of which failed. This was emotionally difficult for Heather and left her feeling down and demoralized. She tried many methods to help her to try to conceive, such as eating healthy, limiting her drinking, taking supplements, using ovulation trackers, and taking her temperature every day. The support she found in The Pineapple Squad helped her heal during this difficult time. It was helpful for the women in the group to spend time with one another, to do activities together, and share laughs. Through the hardships of infertility, Heather’s group made all the difference for her.
“Being able to help other women really helped me be stronger on my own journey.”
Heather enjoys helping others, and has built a support system for many women going through hard times. The opportunity to help and support others has been a way for Heather to heal on her own journey.
About a year and a half later, Heather got pregnant with IVF. After struggling with infertility for years, she was overjoyed to finally be pregnant. Heather gave birth to her daughter this year, which was incredibly exciting. She explains that even though she became pregnant and had her daughter, she never felt fully removed from her infertility. She struggled with stress and worry during her pregnancy. While she was pregnant, she worried about the hard time she may have conceiving again if they wanted to extend their family.
“Infertility really never leaves you.”
It is important to Heather that The Pineapple Squad is open to everyone, whether or not they’ve had children after infertility. Heather wants to create an environment where women can feel supported regardless of where they are in their journeys.
Heather believes there is a big gap in education when it comes to women understanding their bodies, health, and hormones. She expressed that many of the women she knows have little to no knowledge about their health and fertility.
"It's important for women to gain a better understanding of their cycles, and an awareness of their bodies. Once you get to a certain age you should start looking into your hormones, looking into different aspects to test and make sure that your fertility is okay.”
Heather expressed how, prior to learning she was infertile, there were essentially no resources for her to learn about her body. “You always have resources of how not to get pregnant, but nobody explained how to get pregnant. Nobody explained fertility until I was diagnosed as infertile,” she said. The education about how to maintain and understand fertility is not readily available or easily accessible. This is a big gap, and leave women uninformed about the aspects that affect their health and fertility. Heather believes that women should be looking into their fertility needs, even before they are planning to conceive.
One goal she has for the group is to bring joy and positivity to its members, which she works on by fostering community and closeness. She believes that the social aspect of the group is important. When asked what it has been like meeting other women going through similar fertility obstacles, Heather said it’s been “inspiring.” She is moved by the strength and tenacity of the women she meets. She has learned that everyone’s experience with infertility is different, yet everyone has support and compassion to share.
Website: Pineapple Squad