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Empathy, Education, and Empowerment: Reflecting on National Infertility Awareness Week and My Journey to Fertility Consulting

Apr 25, 2024
National Infertility Awareness Week and Fertility Consulting

Every year, National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) serves as a reminder of the challenges faced by millions of individuals and couples on their journey to parenthood. From April 21st to April 27th, communities come together to shed light on infertility, break the silence surrounding the topic, and offer support to those navigating this often emotional and challenging experience.

Most people have heard the statistic that 1 in 6 couples have difficulty conceiving. It’s a hard number to wrap your head around. Chances are a close friend, family member, or coworker is having difficulty and you are likely completely unaware. I remember the first time when 1 in 6 became my reality. It was about 9 years ago; I had only been practicing as an infertility PA for a few years and I got a call from my best friend saying that they just found out that they would not be able to conceive on their own without the help of IVF. Despite having a career focused on helping individuals and couples conceive, I was not prepared for this news. My friend is a well-educated woman who took every precaution to optimize her health and chances for pregnancy, and yet her diagnosis was completely out of her control. That was the moment that truly put things into perspective for me. It was the moment that changed the way I approached patient care in infertility. It was the moment that I became my patient’s ally on their fertility journey instead of just their healthcare provider.

My Journey to Becoming A Fertility Consultant Started in 2012...

My path into reproductive medicine and infertility wasn't initially clear. Despite my interest in women's health, infertility was a topic rarely addressed in my education let alone discussed amongst my family or friends. However, in 2012, after completing my Master of Physician Assistant degree, I found my calling in supporting individuals and couples navigating infertility. Working alongside a leader in the field, I learned the importance of prioritizing the patient experience and well-being.

Yet, after relocating, I realized that personalized care and support were not always the norm with infertility care. It was approximately one year ago when I had another pivotal moment. In just one month, three remarkable women reached out to me, each call opening the door to a new chapter in my life. Despite having access to top-notch fertility centers, they all felt something was missing. They were looking for understanding, empathy, and holistic support.

That's where I came in, not just as a professional but as an ally and mentor. These incredible women were facing more than just the clinical side of fertility treatments; they were dealing with the emotional ups and downs, the physical challenges, and the mental health struggles that often go without additional support.

Being there for them, seeing them grow and overcome these hurdles, was nothing short of inspiring. This experience wasn't just a turning point for them; it was a wake-up call for me too. It highlighted what I felt was lacking in my own practice: the opportunity to really dive deep, to educate, support, and focus on the overall wellness of those individuals and couples struggling to conceive.

I Knew That There Was a Better Way…

Suddenly, my path shifted. It became clear that my calling was about more than just consultations. It was about creating a supportive community where knowledge meets empathy, and where optimizing fertility wellness becomes a shared goal. To create space that not only offers solutions but hope, understanding empowerment, and practical strategies for enhancing fertility wellness. This is what inspired me to start Fortitude Fertility Consulting, a haven where individuals and couples could find not just answers, but also understanding, compassion, and a community.

As National Infertility Awareness Week approaches, I've been reflecting on my journey and why I feel so compelled to share my story. Throughout my years of supporting countless women on their unique paths through infertility, two truths have consistently resonated with me: first, no path to parenthood is the same; and second, it takes courage to walk this path —a path that should never be walked alone. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding infertility often leads many to feel isolated. But it doesn't have to be this way! To shed light on this issue and foster a supportive community, I feel it is important to share some tips with our community on how we can offer meaningful support to those facing the challenges of infertility.

Tips For Supporting Someone with Infertility

1. Avoid Asking the Dreaded Question

Couples often get asked, “When are you planning to have kids?” For many people, this question seems innocent. However, for those who are struggling with infertility, it is a reminder of what they were unable to accomplish despite how hard they have been trying. Instead, focus on more neutral topics such as career achievements, travel, or hobbies. If they feel comfortable sharing their family planning goals or struggles, they will bring it up.

2. Unsolicited Advice Can Do More Harm Than Good:

Almost everyone who is struggling to conceive has been told “If you relax it will happen”. Although this is well-meaning, it can be very hurtful to someone who has been working extremely hard to grow their family. Instead, you should feel honored that they shared their struggle with you and simply listen. Often, knowing that someone is willing to listen without judgment can be the best thing you can gift them.

3. Educate Yourself and Others:

There are quite a few misconceptions surrounding infertility. Taking the time to grasp the fundamentals can help you be more empathetic and supportive. Remember, infertility can arise from a variety of factors and it's not just a women’s issue. It's important to see it as a collective journey. Taking the initiative to educate yourself about infertility conveys to your loved one that you genuinely care and are willing to learn more to better understand and support them on their journey.

4. Show Them That You Care:

When someone is struggling to conceive, often what they need the most is to know that they are not alone.  A small act of kindness or simply offering to be a shoulder to lean on can make the journey feel less overwhelming and isolating.

National Infertility Awareness Week is a time to come together as a community, break the silence surrounding infertility, and offer support and compassion to those facing this journey. It's a reminder that no one should have to walk the path of infertility alone. Through my work, I've seen firsthand the power of informed support and empathy. I hope that sharing my journey raises awareness and highlights the importance of educating ourselves and others. Together, we can create a community of empathy and understanding, where everyone’s unique path to parenthood is met with unwavering support and compassion.

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