Welcome to our series Fertility, Unfiltered. Here, we share the unspoken stories of fertility, a topic all too often off-limits in a society that likes a happy ending. But often, the path to parenthood isn't a straight line. And we want to talk about the twist and turns—or hey, the loops—that come up along the way. From egg freezing to IVF, no topic is off-limits. Today's check-in: Katrina Symonds Hellman. The LA-based creative sharing her ongoing fertility journey as it unfolds in her own words. Follow her journey below and on social @katrinasymonds.
Katrina Symonds Hellman has been there and back again in her fertility journey, one she's been on for nearly two years. As someone who gets it, she is reflecting back on the lessons she's learned along the way, in hope that they may be helpful for you, too. From saying no to unsolicited advice to building yourself up with confidants you trust—here are her five lessons that she would tell herself when she started IVF.
Continue reading below.
1. Trust Your Doctor
People will always share their opinions with you in life. Sometimes, it's helpful. But all too often it isn't, as good intentioned as it may be. People who haven't gone through IVF have offered their thoughts, and often with blame on the doctor. It's easy to assume one's infertility can be blamed on one's doctor, but it's simply not the case. Some of these thoughts are: "Well if it doesn't work will you try a new doctor?" "My friend did it and it worked out super quickly for her, do you want her doctors info?" "Have you thought about changing doctors? Maybe it's your doctors fault." Personally, I find these thoughts unuseful. I am sure doctors' skill sets and experiences range. I'm sure all the doctors have different protocols. But I am also sure that unless you are interested in changing doctors and are asking for recommendations for a new doctor, which is okay, it can often feel destructive to listen to unsolicited medical advice, especially when someone simply hasn't gone through it themselves.
My journey took time, but I always trusted my doctor. There is no straight path to fertility and trusting those closest to you on the journey is imperative for your mental health. Some doctors work differently than others and it's important you trust the one who works with you.
Personally, I wanted to work with a doctor who was very direct, and I'm so grateful I did. If you don't trust your doctor, by all means, change them up! But if you do—trust them. Research shows that positive thinking does help, so try your best to clear the negative thoughts.
2. Run Away from Unsolicited Advice
I have spent way too many hours of my life fielding unsolicited advice from friends, family, or even strangers. Everyone means well, but ultimately if you aren't asking for someone's advice try to mindfully tell them to zip it. Everyone has a thought when it comes to IVF: "Relax." "Try acupuncture." "Take herbs." "Maybe try naturally a little longer." "Don't exercise." "No cold food."
I've heard it all.
I had to get to a point where I realized that fertility is a mystery to most people and these theories of what helps are mostly just that...theories. Oh, I've tried it all. But in the end of the day, I really just needed to listen to myself and a small, trusted circle.
3. Ask as Many Questions As You Want
IVF is foreign and intimidating when you start. It's overwhelming, expensive, confusing and intimate. I found myself apologizing for taking up too much time calling my nurses and asking questions. But it's your body, your journey, and it's so normal to want to know everything as its happening to you.
I know so much more information—stuff that I never thought I'd ever know. And knowledge is power. It's okay to be informed so you can make decisions that suit you. It's okay if you aren't into certain medicines and want to change it up. It's okay to ask why they are taking certain blood tests. I joke that I started as a novice and now I have a PHD. I don't, but I certainly feel informed.
"I joke that I started as a novice and now I have a PHD. I don't, but I certainly feel informed."
4. You Are Not In Control
This is awful to acknowledge, but it's the truth. We can only make choices that will lead to outcomes. But, unfortunately, we do not get to control the outcome. I started IVF thinking it was something I could "win," as if there was a secret to getting it right and doing it quickly.
What I quickly learned is that it's different for everyone. Some people have a smaller amount of eggs, some have less active sperm, some have autoimmune issues, and some simply have unexplained fertility issues. There is no direct path to winning IVF. Positivity sure helps—not to be confused with toxic positivity—but for me what helped was to surrender. I became obsessed with the idea of manifesting but what I learned was that It was another attempt of my trying to be in control. I think asking for what you want is always a good idea, but understand that the outcome is always a mystery.
5. Social Media Is Not Real Life
Approximately 19 percent of women experience infertility, according to the CDC. Statistics also show that one in eight pregnancies end in miscarriage. The reality of how common place infertility and miscarriage is is often not reflected in social media. I am not advocating for people to share their intimate and often excruciating fertility journeys publically if they do not feel comfortable, but when you are personally suffering, it's important to keep in mind that often what you see on social media is not always the full truth.
I know many people who have gone through IVF and did not share, only to later share their joyous gender reveals as if this just worked so easily. It's completely fine to only share the positive. But to those still struggling, know you are only seeing what someone is willing to share.
I found this very hard, particularly after my first failed transfer. I'd stare at gender reveals, announcements, and feel overwhelmingly sad. I went off of Instagram for a few months as I know comparison is the thief of joy and Instagram was truly making me feel awful. If you notice yourself feeling bad after looking at your phone, chances are someone posted something that made you feel a certain way.
I have always consciously tried to be honest on social media, as I know how negatively it can affect people, and I try my best to be real in that regard. I'm sure I've failed at this many times, but it is the reason I decided to be open about my IVF journey. You are not alone and if social media makes you feel that way. And you can always walk away.
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This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.