Alexis Mera

NIAW Feature: The Waiting...

Jennie Monness photographed by  Alexis Mera . and shirt design by  Erin Halper .

Jennie Monness photographed by Alexis Mera. and shirt design by Erin Halper.

I was first introduced to Jennie recently and I was immediately struck by her kind and gentle energy. She literally radiates positivity, and that is why it makes it difficult to believe that she has ever had a difficult day. Infertility wears many masks and Jennie has been brave enough to shed those by sharing that both getting pregnant and pregnancy itself weren’t a walk in the park for her.

There is a reason why “waiting is the hardest part” is a tried and true quote. Like many of us, Jennie put a lot of pressure on herself to get pregnant, and when it wasn’t happening, she took action by finding a mentor and advocating for herself to try to find out why.

Jennie’s story:

I remember hearing that once you want to have a baby it goes from 0 to 100 really quick. That’s what my relationship was like with infertility. Starting at a zero anxiety level, in no real rush, I went off of birth control in November 2015.  My husband is younger than me and he was nervous and not totally “ready.” So, I told him we could wait but that first I needed to know that we didn’t have any issues getting pregnant, as I wanted to stay at 0. I was 32 and slightly hesitant about waiting and having a potential issue. So I got checked, and he did too.

Sure enough, we found out there were some issues. We were told that we could still get pregnant naturally but that it may take a bit longer. That is when it went from 0 to 100 for me. I soon felt that I couldn’t get pregnant quickly enough and I needed it to happen yesterday. We gave it five months and nothing happened. We decided that with no real remedy for our “subtle” issues, we should visit a fertility doctor. The doctor told us he’d try an IUI. Two failed IUI’s later we decided to move onto IVF. I remember one doctor telling me “you decide how fast you want to ride this train,” and I jokingly told my mom, I wanted the freaking ACELA express. 

I spoke to a close friend who had done IVF and asked her for advice as I stepped into this uncharted territory. She told me that before I start the process of IVF I should ask for a saline sonogram. I humored her and asked my doctor for one. I got the saline sonogram and the results showed that I had a septate uterus and needed a surgery called a hysteroscopy. I had to postpone our IVF process for this surgery. I felt so impatient and as if time was running out. Once the hysteroscopy was done, we started egg retrieval. After retrieval and ICSI, we had created successful embryos and were lucky enough to get plenty. We were hopeful and excited for our first transfer. It failed. The same friend who advised me to ask for a saline sonogram, mentioned a reproductive immunologist.

Due to a family history of immunological issues, we made the tough decision to postpone our next transfer until I visited this reproductive specialist. I couldn’t get an appointment right away, so this meant about a two month delay in this process that already couldn’t happen quickly enough. Against everything I felt in my heart, my head told me that I needed to do this, and give this next shot everything I could. I finally had my blood appointment, where they took a ton of blood. A few weeks later, the doctor put me on a protocol of steroids, blood thinners and intralipids.

My next transfer was a success and I was pregnant by March of 2017.  I now have the most incredible 16 month old girl and know that this whole journey was because SHE was meant to be my baby. 

Your high?

The moment Tess was born!

Your low?

My failed FET because it meant more waiting. Waiting was the hardest part. Patience and getting pregnant don’t really go hand in hand when you want it. There were doctors who told us to try for 6 months and come back, or doctors who had “black out” periods, or medical necessities we had to go through (the IUIs, the hysteroscopy, the reproductive immunologist, the intralipid protocol, etc.,) and the waiting was torture.

Not only that, but we had no idea if the waiting would result in a pregnancy and it brought on questions like “am I too old?” or “what if I cant ever get pregnant?” I had never had a pregnancy before in my life so the waiting was especially hard because we were living in this unknown period of “will we ever be parents and how long will it take?”

Do you have a silver lining?

Infertility let me know that there are some things that I can’t control. I’ve lived my entire life mapping out when and how things were going to happen, and they always seemed to fall into place. Infertility taught me that just like I anticipated motherhood to be, life doesn’t always happen according to plan. I’ve learned to accept that and I felt stronger and more ready to become a mom because of it.

Any misconceptions that you had on journey?

Once I was on the route to IVF, I thought that I would be guided along the way until pregnancy. While I had incredible doctors, there were a handful of things that I had to ask for, advocate for, and fight for in order to find the right treatments. What took me a year and a half, with most approved by insurance, could easily have taken 5+ years with an insurance denial, had I not quickly learned that I had to be my own advocate. I had to fight hard for what I knew was right.

Do you have any words of wisdom?

Be your biggest advocate and never give up. Our journey would have taken some couples years, but because I asked for specific things early on, and had an incredible support person telling me what to advocate for, my process took us just one year. No matter how many delays and disappointments there were, I just kept trying and kept going. Although a year seems like an eternity during this process, I got through it knowing that by being my voicing my needs and concerns, I was already advocating for my future child and moving closer to becoming a mom. 

Jennie Monness is the founder and creator of Mo' Mommies and Union Square Play, a place go meet, socialize and build community for moms and their babies. Jennie studied Psychology in Education and received her Master’s Degree from Teachers College, Columbia University. She completed the Foundations to RIE® course and is currently completing her practicum in the approach as well. Visit momommies.com and @momommies to learn more.

Redefining the Conversation about Infertility

Fertility Warriors from L to R:    Andrea Syrtash, Anthea King–Pascual, Jane Jolis, Nathalie Carpenter, Jennie Monness, Rebekah Rosler, Stephanie Rapp. Photo credit: Alexis Mera.

Fertility Warriors from L to R: Andrea Syrtash, Anthea King–Pascual, Jane Jolis, Nathalie Carpenter, Jennie Monness, Rebekah Rosler, Stephanie Rapp. Photo credit: Alexis Mera.

I have thought a lot about the word infertility. It sounds like such an ugly word because there is so much judgement (including self) and lack of awareness around the subject. Even for those embarking on the “journey” there is so much that is unknown. Although the science around it has come a long way, there is still not a guarantee that it will find the underlying cause, let alone solve it to produce a child. 

The word infertile goes against our very basic function as humans to reproduce. And if we can’t do that, we may admonish ourselves for not being “normal” or having tried hard enough, or perhaps not trying the right way (whatever that means). There may be shame, embarrassment, guilt, fear, frustration, jealousy, and, and, and… Societally, we have been taught that all of these emotions are bad/negative and since there is no pride in them, we naturally try to hide them, making the depths of despair associated with (in)fertility even greater. 

I am speaking about all of the above from experience because I have lived it. Do you know how liberating it is to share that publicly? The first time I announced my experience through this blog, I held my breath when I hit publish. I didn’t know what the reaction would be and whether it would be met with public disparagement or disgust, or whether I might even be let go at my corporate job for airing my so-called dirty laundry so publicly. Instead, I was met with responses from people that I knew and didn’t know; that they, their sister, cousin, friend, or colleague was going through it, and would I talk to them about it. In those moments, I understood that I was so far from being alone. I realized that I had been shouldering a greater burden than I had to; and had created more stress for myself by not talking about my (in)fertility story. I will purposely refer to (in)fertility like so moving forward because infertility and fertility are often interchangeable, however I believe that being in the community of fertility is powerful.

By being vulnerable by sharing my own story, I have come to learn that that there are other women who have been voicing their experience and encouraging others to do the same. These fertility warriors are trailblazers, and I recently had the honor and privilege of being in the same room with six incredible women who also see the possibility of change. Alexis Mera was there to capture it all on camera.

To say that it was magical being in the room with these other women is an understatement. We all “knew” each other without actually ever meeting, because although the journey was different for all of us, the end goal of becoming a mother was the same.  Our common bond was cemented in the interest of redefining the conversation around (in)fertility by breaking the silence to get it started.

The silence for all of us at one point or another was deafening. At times the path had been hell both mentally and/or physically, but I believe that we all realized that we could use our strength to give voices and faces to (in)fertility. When. the seven of us met, it was clear that we had found community through authenticity, transparency and vulnerability by sharingand as a result, the ability to pay it forward by supporting others going through the fire.

This is just the start, by creating community, we discover resources, are empowered by options, and elevate the conversation for support publicly and in the workplace. We have the power to make infertility a safe discussion and promoting its importance for financial support consideration and workplace benefits for both women and men.

Be a trailblazer. Over the course of this week during National Infertility Awareness Week, six fertility warriors will be featured on Fertilust. Each will share their story and their reflections on their experience. Some of the themes expressed by our trailblazers included empowerment, community, perseverance, resilience, options, strength, and advocacy.

We welcome you to join the conversation by sharing your constructive voice in the comments, and/or by reaching out to find out how to tap into the community. 

In collaboration with Alexis Mera who photographed each fertility warrior and provided graphic tees from her collections, you can get a sneak peek into each woman’s story here as shared on Alexis’ blog. Please also be sure to check back each day this week as we highlight each fertility warrior in detail here on Fertilust.

Together we can take the conversation about (in)fertility out of the shadows to normalize it. We can make it inclusive by building awareness and community. By giving it so many voices, we can drown out the judgement, misconceptions and silence around the topic.

Rather than focus on the negative aspects of (in)fertility, we have the opportunity to get IN to the community of FERTILITY. Please join us.