stories of IVF and infertility

Fertility, Unfiltered: Staying Positive in a Sea of Unknowns

Photo Credit: @juemwoman

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.

When Perelel asked me to write monthly, I had some initial apprehension. I thought, "What if some months I have nothing to say?" Through my fertility journey, I've learned the life lesson of staying present and knowing nothing can be predicted, so it's best to let it go and do your best one day at a time. It's not always easy but in the present (which is a present in itself, of course) is the answer. So, instead of worrying about how my journey will unfold in the coming months, I write today about my experience and next month....well, who am I to predict?

It's been nine and a half weeks since I miscarried on my second transfer and fifth IVF procedure with a blighted ovum. In this period of time I have felt intense grief, avoidance, confusion, fear, surrender, love and hope. I know people commonly talk about the stages of grieving, but for me it's about the stages of positivity. How do I get back to a place of excitement about what the universe has in store for me with an open heart and an open mind?

"My instinctual drive to be a mother prevails above all."

The day I lost my pregnancy nine and a half weeks ago I experienced the darkest kind of sober despair, and I needed to feel it. The holidays came and went, my husband and I felt it all. The doctors told me my period would come back from my Dilation and Curettage (D&C) procedure, which I had as my miscarriage didn't naturally pass, in four to six weeks. They told me in order to do another round of IVF, my body needed to heal and that after approximately two period cycles (eight more weeks) I'd be ready again.

fertility stories

Here I am at Christmas after my D&C.

Six weeks came and went and on the seventh week I decided to talk to the doctor. My 35th birthday was approaching and I spent my 34th in surgery doing IVF and really just wanted to know what was going on this year. So, he said to come in after eight weeks for some blood work...and now its been nine and a half weeks. It feels as if my body is in purgatory. It's not easy to stay present in that. 

fertility storiesAnother trip around the sun.

A few weeks ago I noticed some mild spotting—a sign some people get when they are pregnant. For me, this felt like a sign. When you have experience with infertility, literally anything can be a sign. Doctors don't advise you keep trying naturally during cycles due to the influx of hormones and your body's overall confusion, but telling a woman over two years into their journey to stop trying is like telling a bird to stop flying. We've all heard stories of it working suddenly on its own. We all want to be that story. To be surprised! Unfortunately, infertility doesn't offer the luxury of wonder.

"Telling a woman over two years into their journey to stop trying is like telling a bird to stop flying."

I checked my vital signs, called some of my "fertility journey" besties, Googled, joined chat rooms...Is my period missing from my D+C or am I pregnant? Some chat rooms say I could be, some say I'm not. So in order to snap back into being present, I called the fertility doctor. He said it's worth looking into: check HCG, hormones, do an ultrasound. Surprise! I'm not pregnant. But where is my period?

I am hopeful, I know my period will come back, I know I will start IVF again, and I know I will get pregnant. First, the pregnancy hormones and tissues lodged somewhere between surrender and science will need to pass or else I'll need to have another D&C. Then, the journey begins again and hope is once again ignited.

fertility stories
My Ayurvedic medicine line up.

People ask me: How do handle it? The unknown. The loss. The grey. I just know that if I couldn't handle it, then it wouldn't be happening. But I can handle it and I am okay. My instinctual drive to be a mother prevails above all, and in the moments in between poking, meditating, chanting, herbs, elixers, whilst my period is on vacation, I am able to enjoy the little breaks like eating tuna, having hot baths, getting on the Peloton without fear of endangering what "could be" happening inside me.

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Back in Australia. Home! The first time since the pandemic. 

The neurons firing in my brain of what ifs can relax. I finally flew home to Australia for the first time since the pandemic because I am not currently on an IVF schedule. I'm now sitting in my parents home, enjoying the surge of positivity, reflective gratitude and self love I have submerged myself in. I have no idea what the future holds. The memory of the darkness is still with me, but it's just that. I’m able to move forward with a hopeful optimism. Today I am present. And that is enough.

Are you currently TTC? Join our community, Village by Perelel, to connect and find support from women going through the same and follow Katrina on social for more Fertility, Unfiltered content like this. Plus, shop OB/GYN-founded vitamins specifically formulated for fertility now.

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.