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.
Meet Katrina Symonds Hellman. The LA-based creative who is currently in the middle of an ongoing fertility journey. We turned to Katrina to share her story for Perelel after her refreshingly raw social posts circulated in our DMs. Finally—someone speaking up about a topic we only speak about with our closest friends. If even that.
"I wish there was a straight line for my journey, but there isn’t. Sometimes that is really challenging, but at the same time I have learned to be really honest about it because I know that I am not alone."
Katrina will be kicking off our new series, Fertility Unfiltered, where we hope to share different experiences on the path to parenthood. Each month, Katrina will check-in and document where she currently is and how she's feeling in her own words. But first, her backstory.
Perelel: Where are you at in your motherhood journey?
Katrina Symonds: This question is hard. I have been doing IVF for a year and a half. We tried naturally before that for about eight months. I have done two egg retrieval. I have done two transfers. I have done what is called an ERA, which is a mock cycle for transfer. They test your uterus lining making sure everything is okay. I have also stopped once to do an autoimmune protocol which is ongoing now. Most recently, we did what is called a DNC, which is a type of abortion if you will. I did have a successful transfer, but unfortunately the embryo did not developed. It was blighted ovum, so that sucked. I did that in December, and now we have a kind of a forced hiatus. I have to wait about two months maybe three depending on my body's cycle. I am just letting my body restore itself and hopefully feel happy and healthy. That is where I am today.
P: Tell us about your experience TTC.
KS: My experience trying to conceive has been complicated at best and hellish at worst. I think that there are so many people that have different journeys. I never thought oh it will be easy, but I do not ever think that I thought it would be this hard. Even when I started IVF, I had this idea that I would be pregnant by December when I started in October. That was not the case. My husband and I have been through a lot of ups and downs in that. We have been through a lot of lows. I wish I could say a lot of highs, but there have been those moments where we do feel incredibly grateful. We have each other, and that is so important for us. It is definitely an arduous marathon.
"It is not the end. It is not the beginning. It is the journey. It is ongoing."
P: Tell us about a happy moment.
KS: By far the happiest moment was after my last transfer. I was in this amazing place of surrender and gratitude. I work with an Ayurvedic teacher, and I was chanting every day and feeling so spiritually connected. I knew deeply inside for the first time in this journey that I was pregnant. I just knew it. It was a beautiful, intuitive, spiritual, grounding feeling. I actually wrote my husband a card because I was getting the results on his birthday. I felt like I knew what was happening, so I wrote him a card the night before saying that I know you are going to be a dad. It felt really vulnerable to do that, but I just trusted it.
I was right. We were pregnant. I found out the next day about five minutes before I was going to give him the card. My doctor called me, and it was an insanely beautiful feeling. I am so grateful for that. Unfortunately, the pregnancy did not last, which was the most devastating experience maybe of my life. But my happy moment was also really beautiful, and I cannot take that away. I know what it will be like when I am pregnant. When it does stick, my emotions are just going to be insane.
P: What has been the hardest part of IVF?
KS: The hardest part of IVF for me has been the way it has affected my spirit. I really work on being a positive person and doing that work every day to feel spiritually aligned and sound. IVF has this magical way of making that very challenging, whether that be the drugs that are playing with your hormones. Maybe they do nothing and that's amazing, but there are a lot of people that do not have the same side effects. Everyone is different.
From the early stages of IVF from taking those drugs and having those mood swings or to you when you are doing a retrieval and learning about your eggs, your spirit is up and down. Holding onto every phone call, it affects your spirit. When you see friends and they are getting pregnant and having these beautiful journeys, you are happy for them. I am so happy for my friends, but it is never not hard. You are never not like why can't this be easier for me. There is this comparison culture. We live in the world of comparison culture, and I think the way that affects your spirit is hard.
Second to that, it has been hard on my body. I have put on 20 pounds since I started IVF because of hormones, the water weight, and when you're doing cycles, sometimes you can’t exercise. I am a very active person, so that has been hard on me and my mental health. My skin has light acne, but when I am on the drugs, just forget about it. Everything is affected. For me personally, it is about trying to stay positive and realistic. But it is about the outcome which is why we are doing it.
P: How has the IVF journey been overall?
KS: I can boil it down to the idea of mind, body, and spirit. I think there are so many factors where things can be challenging. It is just a marathon. It is not a sprint. I think at the beginning what was really challenging was working out the injections and how to do those. My husband was amazing. He did them for me the first cycle every night. I would freak out if he was not around and say he had to change his schedule.
On the second cycle, slowly but surely I started doing a few injections for myself. You are really overwhelmed the first time you see all those needles. I thought I am not a doctor, I didn't study how to inject myself. That for me was challenging to begin with.
The mental component is the way the drugs affect your hormones. The spirit is understanding that this will work out. It is not the end. It is not the beginning. It is the journey. It is ongoing.
Perelel’s #NormalizeTheJourney campaign is so important. If what I have said here has not outlined why, let me be clear. It's hard. The journey is hard. I have mine. Everyone has their own journey. There is no normal. There is normalizing the journey. For me, that means what you are going through is perfect for you. It is your journey. What I am going through, even though I have explained it is hard, it is my perfect journey. It is mine.
The more we are open about what our different journeys are and what are different experiences are, the more other people can feel like that is normalized and feel comfortable talking about it. I think it is incredibly important.
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.